OBERLIN — It was a rough start but Elyria Catholic was more than happy with how things turned out.
Freshman pitcher Andrew Abrohamowicz lasted just a third of an inning for his second consecutive start, allowing four runs on just one hit while walking four, as the second-seeded Panthers fell behind seventh-seeded Wellington.
That was all the offense the Dukes would generate as the Panthers fought back to take a 5-4 win in the first round of the Division III Richfield sectional tournament at Oberlin College’s Dill Field.
Sophomore Aaron Vazquez and senior Joey Begany shut Wellington down for the final six innings, allowing no runs on just a pair of hits to let the Elyria Catholic offense get on track.
“We had a great approach and didn’t try to get all four runs back at once,” Panthers coach Bruce Lisicky said. “We just tried to win each inning and knew if we could do that we’d be in good shape at the end.”
The speed of senior center fielder Angelo Cruz paid big dividends for the Panthers (16-9). Cruz reached base in all four plate appearances, twice on singles and twice on walks. He scored three runs, twice from first base on singles by senior shortstop Lukas Redmond.
In the second, he came around to score on Redmond’s single to right when the Dukes (6-20) had miscommunication in the field and right fielder Nathan Nocella threw to the wrong base. In the fourth, after Cruz walked, he scored when Nocella overran the ball for an error.
“Both of those were hit-and-runs and Angelo was running well,” Lisicky said.
“I sent him because I knew that would put the pressure on their defense and they’d have to make two good throws to have a chance to get him at the plate. On one of them they did make a couple of great throws, but Angelo was fast enough to beat them.”
Redmond was just trying to make contact in both at-bats.
“I just kept things simple and didn’t try to do too much,” he said. “I’m not a power hitter so I wasn’t trying to kill the ball. I just tried to put the ball in play on the right side and it worked out. I was especially happy because it was Angelo out there on the bases. I know he’s going to run the bases well and he has a ton of speed. He takes the extra base when he can.”
The run in the fourth tied the game. Then, in the sixth, Cruz was able to put the Panthers ahead. He walked with two out, stole second and came around to score on Redmond’s single up the middle.
“I’m a senior and I really didn’t want to lose this game and have it end this way,” Cruz said. “Coach finally turned me loose on the bases and let me steal and it paid off.”
Despite scoring four runs in the top of the first, Wellington coach Roger Sasack was disappointed with his team’s missed opportunities.
“We stranded six runners in the first two innings … leaving the bases loaded in the first and leaving them loaded again in the second,” he said. “That’s been the story all year. No one can come up with the big hit. We knew their starting pitcher was kind of wild and we wanted to be patient at the plate. He had some walks but Bruce did a great job of getting him out of there quick and we let them off the hook.”
Sestack also thought Cruz was the difference maker.
“We just couldn’t keep their leadoff batter off the bases and that hurt us,” he said. “He’s really quick and isn’t the kind of guy you want to walk ever. He really hurt us tonight. We walked him twice and they were able to hit-and-run with him a couple of times. When we walked him in the sixth I knew we were in trouble because we’d seen that story before. I sure didn’t like the ending.”
Contact Mike Perry at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.