PENFIELD TWP. — Top-seeded Keystone went in search of a fourth straight sectional championship Monday and found it, scratching out a 3-1 win over Vermilion in the Division II final at Penfield Recreational Park.
The Wildcats (22-5), however, get no time to savor their win. They’re back in action today against Buckeye in a district semifinal at Cuyahoga Community College-West at 6:30 p.m. Benedictine plays Holy Name in the first game at 4 p.m.
The pitching duo of Josh Buchanan and Brandon Burton kept the Sailors (11-15) within striking distance, scattering six hits over six innings and limiting the Wildcats to one big inning.
It just happened to be more than enough for starting pitcher Tyler Gullett (4-3).
“Tyler does a great job in all facets of the game,” Keystone coach Bert Fitzgerald said. “He may not have said he had his best stuff, but I thought he threw great. He was there when we really needed him. I have all the respect in the world for Jeff Keck and his team. Their record doesn’t do justice on just how good they are.”
Vermilion threatened from the start, loading the bases in the first inning with two out as Ryan Barnes walked, Caleb Waller (3-for-4) singled and Nick Ragnoni had an infield single. But Gullett got Tristen Mayer to ground out to first to end the inning.
Keystone got all its offense in the second, scoring three times thanks to some timely hitting, a bit of aggressive baserunning and some bright sunshine.
Marcus Gunter started the rally with a single and Pierce Young added a single to left. Both moved up on a wild pitch and came home on an opposite-field hit by Korey Horne.
“I was a little fooled on that pitch, I really didn’t want to swing,” Horne said. “I knew that if we could get a couple runs it might hold up with our defense. It was a high, outside fastball and I was able to just hit it where it was pitched.”
Josh Piotrowski ran for Horne and ended up at third on a stolen base and a passed ball.
He scored the final run when Drew Compton lifted a fly ball in the infield that was lost in the bright sun and fell for a single and a 3-0 lead.
Gullett’s pitching kept Vermilion off the board until the fifth inning when Waller, Alec Adams and Buchanan strung together three straight singles to cut the lead to 3-1.
Burton came on in the fourth and shut down the Wildcats, retiring all nine batters he faced, including five straight by strikeout.
Burton kept Vermilion close, but the Sailors couldn’t push across another run, stranding one in the sixth and two in the seventh against reliever Collin Fitzgerald, who got a fielder’s choice and a strikeout to end the rally and the game.
“I am just so proud of the way the kids played and this young team just kept battling,” said Sailors coach Jeff Keck, who had only two seniors on the roster. “We had a lot of ups and downs, but found a way to win four of our last five. I’m looking forward to the future with this group.”
Contact James Brady at 329-7135 or email@example.com.