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Start got an early challenge from St. John s Jesuit before using a four-run rally in the fifth inning to take a 7-3 victory in the Division I district baseball championship last night at Skeldon Stadium.
The fourth-ranked Spartans (22-2) will meet Avon Lake (19-6) in a regional semifinal at 2 p.m. Friday at Shelby.
Start, a senior-dominated team, saw two of its younger members deliver the key blows during the game-breaking rally.
First, sophomore third baseman Jason Boomer Moulton, who was 4-for-4 with three RBIs in the game, ripped a bases-loaded, two-run single past Titan third baseman Jay Wheeler to put Start ahead 3-2.
Later, with two out and the bases loaded again, freshman second baseman Ricardo Lizcano stroked a single through the middle to plate two more runs for a 5-2 Spartan edge.
I just tried to hit strikes, hit the ball down and make em field it, Moulton said. I came out of a slump. There was a little bit of pressure knowing that this was a big game, but I just tried to put that behind me and focus. It s just a game.
With senior right-hander Aaron Stewart raising his record to 9-0 on a hard-earned 126-pitch, 10-hit victory, Start claimed its 16th district title, including 14 under Rich Arbinger, in his 30th season coaching the Spartans.
A sophomore and a freshman are not expected to be leaders. The seniors are, Stewart said of Moulton and Lizcano. But they stepped up today. Boomer s been in a slump, but he came through big time.
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We talked about it in school today, and he came through when he needed to. I didn t bring my A-game today, but my defense stepped up for me. It s my second time back [to a regional], and it s going to be on the seniors to take this team the rest of the way. The seniors have to step up.
Midway through the game, the defending district-champion Titans (14-12) appeared poised for an upset behind sophomore right-hander Tim Corbey (6-3).
St. John s took a 1-0 lead in the first inning when Ross Hartwig doubled down the left-field line with one out, then scored when Lizcano threw wildly to first on Jay Wheeler s grounder.
On a near carbon-copy scenario, the Titans took a 2-0 edge in the third.
Once again, Hartwig (3-for-4) stroked a one-out double down the left-field line, then scored as the result of a Start throwing error after a Wheeler grounder. Moulton threw Wheeler out at first, but on the return throw from first baseman Tom DeClercq with Hartwig sliding into third, the ball skipped past Moulton, enabling Hartwig to score.
The Spartans drew closer with a run in the fourth after Moulton and Mike Nyitrai opened with singles. Stewart was hit by a pitch to load the bases, and Wade Anderson brought Moulton home with a sacrifice fly to center.
Corbey escaped further trouble by inducing Lizcano into a fielder s-choice grounder and retiring Nick Ervin on a fly to center.
After St. John s parlayed three hits into a run in the sixth, Moulton drove in his third run of the game on his fourth single in the bottom of the inning. Anderson plated Start s final run with a single to center.
They took advantage of their opportunities, St. John s coach Ed Mouch said. I thought we had some opportunities, too, but it didn t end up the way we wanted it. They swung it well when they needed to with guys in scoring position.
The Titans stranded nine runners, Start six.
Aaron [Stewart] battled the whole way and that s what a quality pitcher does, Mouch said He s going to find some way to keep his team in the game until his team starts swinging the bat well.
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