Start is district champion for the second straight year and 15th time overall, but the Waite Indians weren't ready to relinquish their hold on the City League baseball title just yet.
Behind the three-hit pitching of senior Chad Hornyak, the Tribe (16-8) toppled the sixth-ranked Spartans 3-1 in a league playoff semifinal yesterday at Scott Park.
“It means a lot,” said Waite coach Dan Clayton, asked if beating perennial power Start was significant, “but history's history. The kids from Start aren't the same ones who were here when the history was made, and the kids at Waite aren't the same ones. Hopefully we're changing that a little bit.”
St. Francis shortstop Tom Gerken takes a throw that forces St. John's runner Bob Grimm at second base.
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In yesterday's second semifinal, St. Francis de Sales spotted rival St. John's Jesuit a two-run lead before taking a 5-2 victory to give coach Don Kober his 600th win in his 30th season.
“That just means you've coached a long time with great St. Francis kids,” Kober (600-230) said of the milestone, which equates to 20 wins a season. “That's something that's increasingly harder to do because baseball's so good around here.
“They're our arch-rival and they've knocked us out of the playoffs the last three years, so there's a lot of meaning to this win. They had a lot of hits but we were able to spread them out and get the outs when we needed them.”
Waite and St. Francis (16-5) play for the City League crown at 5 p.m. tomorrow at Scott Park. Start (23-5) faces defending state champion Cleveland St. Ignatius in a Division I regional semifinal at 5 p.m. Friday at Shelby High School.
Waite - bidding to become the first CL public school other than Start to win back-to-back titles since the championship-game format began in 1968 - gave Hornyak (5-2) all the scoring he would need in a 31-pitch first inning against Spartan starter Corey Maurer.
With two outs, Indian senior catcher David Quiroga fouled off five pitches before ripping a single to left on a 1-2 count, then stole second.
“I just battled [Maurer] and ended up getting a hit,” Quiroga said. “I figured with [Hornyak] getting a lead he'd have a little more confidence out there. When a pitcher goes out with a two-run lead, he's thinking the best already. This was the best he's pitched all year.
“We knew we had the hitters. The pitchers we weren't sure of.”
Carl Markowski doubled down the left-field line to plate Quiroga, then scored on Horn- yak's bloop double which escaped the glove of diving Start left fielder Greg Wimberly.
“That gave me a lot of boost and I just kept it slow, didn't walk batters and came out with a win,” Hornyak said of his early lead. “When I pitch I'm usually behind in the count. But I always fight back. I kept it calm. I didn't want to get too anxious.”
In the bottom half, Start's Josh Moulton reached on a bad-hop grounder scored as an error on Waite shortstop Tony Guerra. Moulton stole second and scored on Tom Arvay's double to left.
In the second, Waite's Matt Grigson singled, stole second, and scored on an error by Start first baseman Jon Frank, the second of five Spartan miscues.
Hornyak - who struck out four and walked one in his 112-pitch, 67-strike outing - continually battled from behind in the count to evade trouble. His defense helped with three fine plays in the Start fifth.
Third baseman Larry Gillhouse fielded a hard, tough-hop smash from Wimberly, Quiroga hustled to snag Rob Hemmig's foul pop against the backstop, and center fielder Sean Scharer dived to snare Alex Frank's drive.
After Nick Danielski's leadoff single in the Start second, Hornyak kept the Spartans hitless until Jon Frank singled with two out in the sixth.
St. John's (18-9) touched Knight starter Dustin Szenderski for 11 hits over four innings, but failed to capitalize on several scoring chances. The Titans stranded 10 runners in the game.
“We didn't hit real well with guys in scoring position, but that's a tribute to their pitchers, too,” Titan coach Ed Mouch said. “They bore down a little bit more and got some outs in critical situations. I want to congratulate Don Kober. I have a lot of respect for that man.”
A key missed chance came in the fourth when Titan Kevin Leininger, running from second, was thrown out at the plate - right fielder Luke Barton to Austin Taylor - after an Andrew Decker single.
Reliever Jared Brown shut the Titans down over the final three innings, allowing just one hit. He struck out the side to end the game, and finished with five strikeouts.
Reed Welker (3-for-4) doubled and scored on a Bryan Kessler single in the first inning for St. John's, which got its other run in the second when Mickey Cassidy doubled and scored on Leininger's single.
St. Francis singles from Szenderski, Scott Gunn and Jordan Lonchyna plated a run in the third, and the Knights added three runs on three hits and two walks in the fourth. Barton, Neil McMonigle and Nick Bialorucki all contributed RBI singles. Gunn singled in McMonigle for the last run in the sixth.