PARMA HTS. — Keystone knew the road to a fourth straight district championship was going to be a lot tougher this season.
But the Wildcats, who moved up to Division II this year, were able to get it done, scratching out a 3-1 district final win over Benedictine on Wednesday at Cuyahoga Community College’s Mottl Field.
With the game tied at 1 in the seventh inning, Keystone found some magic, scoring the game-winning runs without a hit.
Chris Sittinger reached on an error and Collin Fitzgerald drew a walk before they both came around to score on a fielder’s choice by Marcus Gunter.
Benedictine (12-14) was trying to turn a double play to escape the inning with no damage, but after getting the force at second, Gunter beat out the errant throw to first.
Fitzgerald, meanwhile, hustled all the way from second base and scored behind Sittinger.
“We were able to take advantage of a break,” Keystone coach Bert Fitzgerald said. “Nothing seemed to go our way early on. We were lucky enough. Our guys hit the ball hard, they made an error and we got some runs across the plate.”
Fitzgerald (5-0) pitched a complete game, allowing just one run in the second inning on a wild pitch that tied the game at 1.
He allowed just three hits the rest of the way and was able to shut the door on the Bengals, including pitching a 1-2-3 seventh inning.
“My team did a good job pumping me up and I went out and threw hard,” said Fitzgerald, who finished with six strikeouts. “My fastball was working. My fastball and my cutter were pretty solid. I couldn’t throw my curve very well, but I did all right.”
Keystone (24-5) grabbed a 1-0 lead when Tyler Gullett blasted an RBI double in the first inning.
“I’ve been in a slump the last couple games so I was just trying to get back to the basics,” Gullett said. “I saw a fastball outside and I jumped on it and it carried.
“Our whole goal this year was to win our fourth district championship in a row. I’ve only been a part of two, but I knew they had a legacy here. I wanted to add to it. That’s what we did.”
Benedictine looked like it had the lead in the sixth when Jack Williams singled to drive in pinch runner Da’von Johnson. However, Johnson never touched third and, after a Keystone appeal, was called out, wiping the run off the board.
“Our kids played hard,” Benedictine coach Brian Sliwinski said. “Like I told them before the game, ‘Leave it all on the field’ and they did it. We came up two runs short or one inning short. I’m proud of these guys. They gave a top 10 team in the state all they can handle.
“When you’re playing a team that has 20-plus wins, you can’t make mistakes against those kind of teams. It came back to bite us in the end.”
Keystone advances to the regional semifinal Thursday at 5 p.m. at Tiffin against the winner of the Mansfield district. Perkins plays Lexington and Clyde plays Ontario today in the Mansfield district with the winners to meet Saturday.
Contact Steve Walker at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.