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Tuesday, November 25, 2014
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Published: Monday, 5/26/2014 - Updated: 6 months ago

Titans, Knights bounce back

After district losses, St. John’s, St. Francis reach TRAC final

BY STEVE JUNGA
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
St. John’s second baseman Ethan Kirkman tags out  Findlay's Austin Cameron in the TRAC semifinal game at Mercy Field in Toledo. Kirkman scored the first run of the 9-1 victory. St. John’s second baseman Ethan Kirkman tags out Findlay's Austin Cameron in the TRAC semifinal game at Mercy Field in Toledo. Kirkman scored the first run of the 9-1 victory.
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St. John’s Jesuit shook off the disappointment of being upset in Thursday’s Division I district baseball semifinals, taking a 9-1 victory over Findlay in the Three Rivers Athletic Conference playoff semifinals Monday at Mercy Field.

The 10th-ranked Titans (22-3), top seeds in the district, had left 12 runners on base in their 2-1 tourney loss to Southview.

However, they bounced back with 12 hits against Findlay Monday, including eight for extra bases, backing the scoreless five-inning pitching effort of senior lefty Collin Korte.

PHOTO GALLERY: TRAC baseball semifinals

St. John’s will face rival St. Francis de Sales in the TRAC championship game today at 7 p.m. at Mercy Field. The Knights (19-7) advanced by blanking Central Catholic 4-0 in Monday’s second conference semifinal here.

Korte (6-0, 2.76 ERA) cruised through Findlay’s lineup for five innings, exiting after allowing a single to open the sixth. He yielded five hits and a walk, and struck out five.

“I had good back-up today with our hitting, and we didn’t have any errors when I was pitching,” Korte said. “We came out with a big victory today. It feels pretty good [to reach TRAC final] after our loss the other day.

“We wanted some revenge, even if it wasn’t against Southview. Thursday was disappointing, to say the least. But we all wanted to come back with a big win.”

St. John’s took a 2-0 lead in the first inning. Ethan Kirkman sparked things with a double, and scored on Pete Burkett’s triple. Burkett (3-for-4) then scored on Sam McClurg’s double.

The Titans added four more runs off of Trojans lefty starter Chandler Stillings in the fourth.

T.J. Lake (2-for-3) tripled and scored on pinch-hitter Luke Brahier’s single. After Stillings walked John Freisner, Alex Gum plated both runners with a double,, then scored on a Findlay error.

St. John’s made it 9-0 in the fifth, when singles by Burkett and McClurg were followed by Lake’s two-run triple. Lake later scored on Gum’s fielder’s-choice grounder.

“I totally expected us to bounce back today and have a great performance,” Titans coach Greg Christian said. “We were very loose this morning in batting practice, and we have 11 seniors on our team. They showed some leadership and some character and heart today. We played well.”

Findlay (14-12) got its only run of the game came with two outs in the top of the seventh off Titan reliever Luke Vollmar.

“Collin Korte’s a senior and a three-year starter,” Christian said. “This is totally what we expected out of him. I knew he would get the job done. We’re very confident when he’s on the mound.

“A lot of teams don’t get to win their last game’s of the season. Even though it’s not what we wanted for our last game, we can still get a win [today] and the seniors can leave with a good feeling.”

In the second semifinal, St. Francis again rode the right pitching arm of junior ace Nick Lankard, whose prior outing was a 5-0 shutout of Springfield in last Thursday’s D-I district semifinals.

Lankard (6-0, 1.05 ERA), who had just two strikeouts, yielded just four hits, one walk, and hit a batter.

“I just have a good team behind me,” Lankard said. “All I had to do was throw strikes, and they made the plays for me.

“We’re happy to be moving on. We want to do something we didn’t get a chance to do last year, and we’re going to do everything we can to accomplish that. We’re excited.”

The Knights, who lost to Southview 8-3 in Saturday’s district final, got the only run they would need in the first inning.

Leading off the TRAC semifinal, Andy Okuley reached when Irish second baseman Ryan O‘Hearn lost his pop fly in the sun for an error. Okuley later scored on Brady Ansara’s two-out single.

St. Francis added three runs in the third, with Mark Phillips starting things off by reaching on an error by Irish third baseman Derich Weiland. Okuley (2-for-4) followed with a single, and Hayden Huff and Jay Denman each added RBI singles.

“He’s really hard to square up because his ball moves a lot,” Knights coach Tim Gerken said of Lankard. “He’s really just coming of age as a pitcher. He’s starting to figure out how to make the ball move and that he doesn’t have to strike people out. He’s a competitor. We give him the ball and just jump on his back.”

Three of the Knights’ runs off of Irish starter Chad Kuebler were unearned, courtesy of three errors by the Irish (19-8), who had won last year’s TRAC playoff championship by upsetting a St. Francis team that reached the D-I regional finals.

“Nick Lankard pitched very well and they made all the plays behind him,” Central coach Jeff Mielcarek said. “When we put it in play they made the play. We tip our hat to both Nick and the St. Francis team. They played a nice game.”

Contact Steve Junga at: sjunga@theblade.com, or 419-724-6461 or on Twitter@JungaBlade.



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