Crusaders roll to sectional final

HEADING BACK — Catholic Central’s Luca Connor slides back to first base after a flyout against River in a Division IV sectional contest on Saturday. (Photo by Joe Catullo)

STEUBENVILLE — The Catholic Central baseball team is moving on, but its coach made it clear it will have to be much better to do so again.

The Crusaders, the No. 5 seed in Division IV East District, defeated No. 10 seed River, 8-1, Saturday evening at Vaccaro Field. Coach Don Young, though, did not feel it was the sharpest of performances.

“I’m not real happy,” Young said. “Win and move on, that’s the main thing. We are going to have to play a lot better going forward. I’ve been doing this long enough to know the first game (of the tournament) is always a struggle. We’ll get back after it in practice on Monday and look to be better (on Tuesday).”

Central (12-8) scored three runs in the bottom of the first to take command early, then used a four-run fourth to all but put the game out of reach.

It was what happened in between that Young wasn’t completely pleased with.

“We did enough to get the win,” he said. “Too many soft fly balls. Overall, I thought we played pretty well. We just have to pick it up a lot. Hopefully we can. If not, we’ll be short-lived.”

Before the Crusaders got the lead, the Pilots were threatening in the top of the first with the bases loaded and one out. Young made a trip to the mound to talk to starting pitcher Anthony LeFever. Two pitches later, Central turned a 6-4-3, inning-ending double play to end the threat.

LeFever found himself in a similar jam in the top of the third, with two on and one out. The Pilots did get on the board this time — on a Hunter Dennis RBI single — but another double play by the Central infield minimized the damage.

“Those were huge,” Young said of the double plays. “LeFever got into a couple of jams, and those double plays helped out. He worked out of some stuff. I don’t think he gave up a whole lot. He dug a couple of holes for himself, but, overall, he pitched well.”

In the bottom of the first, Anthony Sprochi singled and stole second, then scored on Noah Fayak’s single to right field. Dom Argentine’s base hit moved Fayak to third. Matt Bell later ripped a double down the left field line to plate both and make it 3-0.

Ryan Gorman singled in Jayden Keeder in the bottom of the third to answer the River run and make it 4-1 Crusaders.

An inning later, the bats got going again.

Fayak singled with one out, Argentine walked and Matt Bell was hit by a pitch to load the bases and chase Pilot starter Chase Lawrence from the game. Then, Keeder singled up the middle to score two and make it 6-1. Gorman got his second RBI of the game, plating Bell with a ground out. Nick Kissinger singled home Keeder to push the advantage to 8-1.

“Their pitcher kept us off balance,” Young said. “It took us a few innings to adjust.

LeFever worked out of another bases-loaded jam in the sixth, getting a pop-up and a ground out to strand three.

“It was a tough game,” River head coach Marty Ramsey said. “I thought we played closer than the score. Tip your hat to them, they are a good team and have a chance to go pretty far in the tournament. We’re a young team, so hopefully we learn from it and carry it over into next year.”

In total, River left nine men on base.

“We didn’t get the hit when we needed it, and they did when they needed them,” Ramsey said. “That’s the game of baseball. We didn’t give up. I’m proud of the boys for that.”

Zach Campbell replaced LeFever, who struck out three and walked four, in the seventh and worked around a couple of fielding mishaps to seal the victory.

UP NEXT

River: Season over.

Catholic Central: Will play at No. 3 seed Shadyside, a 10-0 winner for the sectional title on Tuesday, in what will be the fourth meeting this season between the teams. The Tigers won the two regular-season meetings, before Central won the most recent in the OVAC Class 2A tournament semifinal.

“We’ve played them three times this year, and I think it’s going to be a really good match-up,” Young said. “It’s two good teams that know each other well. It’s going to be a big challenge for us.”

(Grimm can be reached at agrimm@heraldstaronline.com)

No. 5 Catholic Central 8, No.10 River 1

River 0-0-1 0-0-0 0 — 1-6-2

Central 3-0-1 4-0-0 x — 8-10-3

RIVER: Lawrence (LP, 3 1/3IP, 7R, 7ER, 7H, 3K, 2BB, 1HBP), Rose (2 2/3IP, 1R, 1ER, 3H, 1K, 0BB) and C. Dennis.

CATHOLIC CENTRAL (12-8): LeFever (WP, 6IP, 1R, 1ER, 6H, 3K, 4BB), Campbell (1IP, 0R, 0H, 0K, 0BB) and Keeder.

TWO OR MORE HITS: River (Rose 2); Catholic Central (Fayak 2, Kissinger 2). DOUBLES: River none; Catholic Central 2 (O’Kruta, Bell). TRIPLES: none. HOME RUNS: none. RBIs: River 1 (H. Dennis); Catholic Central 8 (Fayak, Bell 2, Keeder 2, Gorman 2, Kissinger).

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