Clay’s Ty McAtee scores as St. John’s catcher Corey Tipton waits for the ball during the second inning of the Division I district semifinals at Mercy Field on Thursday. The Eagles won 5-0.
THE BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH
Perhaps no one individual enjoys Central Catholic’s Mercy Field more than longtime Irish baseball coach Jeff Mielcarek. But Clay senior pitcher Jordan Grosjean would certainly have to be a close second on that list.
The Eagles’ right-handed ace has started seven games on that artificial-turf diamond since it opened last season, and the numbers tell the story.
After blanking St. John’s Jesuit 5-0 on five hits Thursday at Mercy Field in a Division I district semifinal, Grosjean is 7-0 there.
He has pitched 51 innings there, allowing just 35 hits and eight total runs (six earned, 0.82 ERA) while striking out 65 batters. Six of the wins have been in tournament play.
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In beating the Titans Thursday, Grosjean struck out 10 and walked none, and let his Eagles teammates take care of the rest.
Clay rapped out eight hits, including a 4-for-4 effort from first baseman Josh Pennington. The Eagles grabbed an early lead and then watched their ace do what he’s become accustomed to at Mercy Field.
“Jordan was around the plate all day, he got ahead of hitters, and he threw his breaking ball for strikes,” Clay coach Garry Isbell said. “When he can do that, his fastball is that much more effective.”
Clay (14-12) will play for the district championship Saturday at noon against the winner of today’s 4:30 p.m. game at Mercy Field between fourth-ranked St. Francis (25-1) and Whitmer (14-10). Their semifinal contest was postponed by rain Thursday.
Grosjean escaped trouble in the third inning, when St. John’s put runners on second and third with one out, and again in the fourth, when the Titans got a runner to third with one out.
“It feels great to finally have the bats come alive,” Grosjean said of his run support. “Moving on [to the district final] feels great, especially as a senior. There’s nothing I want more, and we all want to win.
“I gave up five hits, and St. John’s hit the ball today. But the team played great behind me. They made all the plays.”
Clay wasted no time giving Grosjean some run support, jumping out to a 1-0 lead in the first inning.
Ryan Fournier reached on an infield single, stole second base, advanced on Bryce Castilleja’s single to right, and scored on a sacrifice fly to right field from Lucas Robson.
“Our kids came out with a lot of intensity right off the bat, both with the sticks and defensively,” Isbell said.
The Eagles made it 2-0 in the second inning against Titans starter Nolan Silberhorn after Ty McAtee led off with an infield single and moved up on Kyle Row’s sacrifice bunt.
After Pennington’s single to center sent McAtee to third, Austin Gwyn successfully executed a suicide squeeze bunt to score McAtee.
In the fourth inning, Silberhorn walked Row to begin the inning, Pennington followed with an infield single, and Tyler Everhardt delivered an RBI single to left-center for a 3-0 Clay lead.
The Eagles’ fourth run came in the sixth, aided by an error on relief pitcher Jimmy Scott.
Scott appeared poised to escape a bases-loaded, two-out jam when he gloved Robson’s come-backer. But, before he started toward first to flip the ball to Pete Burkett, Scott had unknowingly dropped the ball, allowing Pennington to score from third.
It was one of five Titans errors in the game.
“There’s a reason Grosjean was pitcher of the year in our conference last year, and I don’t see any reason why he won’t be this year also,” St. John’s coach Greg Christian said. “He dominated us today. The five errors didn’t help us, but we didn’t square many balls up on him.
“We had two chances early in the game — second and third with one out, and then a man on third with one out — and he came up with big strikeouts. You don’t get a whole lot of chances against Jordan, and he was very good today.”
The Eagles — who added an unearned run in the seventh inning to complete the scoring — have a shot at reaching their second straight D-I regional. Clay lost in the regional semifinals last year against Ashland.