Crusaders tame Tigers in 2A game

STEUBENVILLE – Shadyside coach Mike Meintel was spot on when he said Catholic Central’s Chris Murphy pitched “a heck of a game” in Saturday’s Ohio Valley Athletic Conference Class 2A championship contest.

The junior right hander allowed just two hits and worked his way of several jams as the Crusaders earned their first league crown since 2008 with a 7-3 victory over the Tigers at Vacarro Field.

“You know you’ve done a heck of a job when you only allow two hits in an OVAC title game,” Meintel said. “He pitched a good game. You can’t win baseball games with two hits.”

Central coach Don Young praised Murphy for “gutting it out.”

“He’s still not 100 percent but I thought he threw a heck of a game,” Young stated. “He got into some trouble at the end by walking a couple of guys. He wasn’t real sharp but he battled and the kids behind him battled. It was a total team effort.”

The Crusader offense gave Murphy the cushion he needed by scoring five times in the initial two innings. Aleks Porreca’s single was the big blow of the two-run first.

Central added three in the second thanks to Kyle Laukert’s single, Murphy’s RBI ground out and two wild pitches.

“The first two innings set the tone for the whole game,” Meintel noted. “They came ready to play and we didn’t.”

Murphy kept the Tigers hitless until Cody Hudson’s two-out single to right in the fifth. Shadyside did threaten in the third. Luke Nardo was hit by a pitch and Chase Kinemond drew a free pass. A perfect strike from catcher Laukert to second baseman Michael Barber cut down Kinemond on an attempted steal. Murphy then retired two in a row to escape trouble.

Shadyside’s first two batters worked Murphy for walks in the fourth but again, the Crusader hurler was up to the challenge, retiring three straight. A potential Tiger rally in the fifth was cut short when Murphy picked off a runner at first.

Michael Barber made several nice plays at second to give Murphy defensive support. Stone Romano did the same at first and Porreca in right.

Central added a couple of insurance runs in the seventh thanks to Brenton Colabella’s single. Shadyside finally got to Murphy for its three tallies in the home half of the frame, Adam Stupak delivering a run-scoring base knock.

The Crusaders managed six hits off Shadyside starter and loser Jared Brooks. The southpaw settled down after the opening frames and pitched well. He recorded 13 strikeouts.

“We didn’t hit the ball well,” Young said. “Brooks is good. We did just enough offensively and that’s what we try to do every day-just enough to win.”

Meintel also praised Brooks’ effort but noted, “you can’t win on two hits no matter how good he pitches. He really settled down after the first two innings and threw well.

“The bottom line is we only had two hits and you can’t win games with two hits.”

Laukert and Murphy both had two hits for Central, which entered the tournament as the fourth seed and now stands at 13-5.

Young, whose Crusaders fell in the 2012 OVAC title game to Linsly, admitted he was feeling “a lot better this year than I was last year.”

“We’ve come a long way and we expect a lot from our kids,” the Central coach said. “The season we had last year was a stepping stone for our program. These kids have come every day and worked hard. We still have a lot of improvements to make and we have to get better before the tournament.

“This is just a step. We were here last year and we don’t want to create bad habits. We want to be in the finals every year and be competitive.”

Central will return to action Monday when it hosts Martins Ferry.