Jay Wheeler's tag is a shade too late as Start's Jacob Koechley dives back to third base in the third inning yesterday. Koechley got up and later scored on Mike Nyitrai's three-run double.
The opposing pitcher was quite familiar to St. John's Jesuit coach Ed Mouch and his Titan team in last night's City League baseball game against the visiting Start Spartans.
That's because Spartan sophomore Jason "Boomer" Moulton spent three summers playing for Mouch's youth teams (2001-
2003), squads that included four current St. John's starters.
But the familiarity helped little as the crafty right-hander tossed a three-hitter in unbeaten Start's 7-1 victory over the defending CL and Division I district champion Titans.
The Spartans (15-0 overall) are a first-place 7-0 in CL play. St. John's (8-7, 4-4) faces Woodward in D-I sectional semifinal play today at 1 p.m. at Bowman Park. Start opens tourney play with a sectional final at Northview at 2 p.m. next Saturday against Monday's Southview-Bowsher winner.
Start's win also helped take a little sting off of the six veteran Spartan returning starters who lost to St. John's in both the CL and district championship games a year ago.
I just tried to throw strikes, keep the ball low and let my defense do the work, said Start pitcher Jason Moulton, who threw a 3-hitter yesterday. He struck out six and walked four.
Two of those returnees were Moulton and his catcher, senior Mike Nyitrai, who delivered the game-breaking blow at the plate, a three-run double in the third inning off Titan starter and loser Andrew Vollmar.
Nyitrai's pivotal hit came on a one-out, 2-1 offering from Vollmar, an outside fastball driven up the right-center gap, scoring Jacob Koechley, Kevin Neilly and Moulton.
"I knew he was going to try to sneak a fastball by me," Nyitrai said. "I was sitting dead red and he got one up a little bit where I could drive it.
"Anytime you play St. John's it's always a big game and you always want to win. The games last year really gave us more
Moulton said he settled in once he got the lead.
"I just tried to throw strikes, keep the ball low and let my
defense do the work," said Moulton, who struck out six and walked four in his 108-pitch outing. "It took me a couple innings to get used to the mound. It's a little different than Bowman [Start's home field].
"That [Nyitrai's hit] took a lot off of my shoulders. I didn't have to worry about throwing a shutout anymore."
Start added a run in the fifth when Nyitrai reached on a one-out infield single and scored on left fielder Aaron Stewart's 360-foot double off the fence in right-center. Those hits came off Titan reliever Eric Clendenin.
The Spartans got three more insurance runs in the top of the seventh without the benefit of a hit. Two walks and three hit batsmen, plus a throwing error by St. John's third pitcher, Jake Cappelletty, created those runs.
Moulton was one fly ball away from a two-hit shutout in the seventh, but that fly was dropped down the right-field line by Neilly, allowing Cappelletty, one of Moulton's former youth teammates, to reach second.
On the next pitch, another former Moulton teammate,
Titan shortstop Val Helldobbler, ripped an RBI single to center. Helldobbler had two of St. John's three hits in the game.
"Boomer is a heck of pitcher and he pitched a very good game today," Mouch said. "We had some opportunities and we couldn't cash in, but he was good."
Did Mouch help create the pitcher who beat his team last night?
"No," he said. "His dad [former Start pitcher and current assistant coach Steve Moulton] has worked with him since he was small, so he gets all the credit for that."
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