Jason Moulton dives home safely with what proved to be the winning run in the third inning. He also pitched a four-hitter.
SHELBY - "That's my boy," Start assistant baseball coach Steve Moulton said of sophomore son Jason moments after the fourth-ranked Spartans' 3-2 victory over Lakewood St. Edward in yesterday's Divsion I regional final.
Best known by his nickname, "Boomer," the younger Moulton got plenty of attaboys after outdueling a better-known and more noticeable sophomore pitcher - St. Ed's 6-9, 240-pound Scott Moviel and his 88-mph fastball - to send Start to its seventh state-semifinal berth.
"Those are two great sophomore pitchers and it should have been a tie because it was even all the way," said 30th-year Start coach Rich Arbinger. "We've played a lot of good teams in the Toledo area, and I think Toledo baseball is way underrated. We're trying to carry the banner for the City League."
The Spartans (24-3) will face Cincinnati Princeton (22-8) Friday at 1:30 p.m. in a D-I semi at Fifth Third Field in Dayton. In its last state trip, Start won the 2000 title, beating Cleveland St. Ignatius 7-2.
The last time Start made it to a regional - before beating Avon Lake 11-4 here on Friday - the Moulton family had a dismal experience at Shelby.
On May 30, 2003, with then-senior brother Josh Moulton playing center field and pitching in relief for the Spartans, Start lost 6-0 in the semis to St. Ignatius and 6-6 lefty ace, Greg Moviel (Scott's brother), whose 91 mph fastball forged a 16-strikeout one-hitter.
Before leaving that day, Steve Moulton discovered that a window in the family van had been shattered by a foul ball.
Start's Andrew Dailey, left, congratulates winning pitcher Jason Moulton.
Those memories were wiped clean by Boomer's complete-game four-hitter yesterday. Moulton (7-1) struck out five, walked two, and thrived on poise mixed with an effective breaking ball. These same Eagles had 15 hits, including two homers, in Friday's 13-2 semifinal win over Findlay.
"I just tried to stay loose, throw strikes and get all these guys out," Moulton said. "I was pretty calm, but not totally. It was a big game and I had a lot on my shoulders. I just tried to look past that and just throw a game. I may not be the better pitcher, but I got [Moviel] today."
The Eagles used three of their four hits to take a 2-0 lead in the second. Brandon Fronhapple hit an infield single, moved to third on Mike Bonitati's single, and scored on a sacrifice fly. Brendan Newman's double to right plated Bonitati.
St. Ed (21-11) got just one more hit, a third-inning single off Moulton, who stayed steady despite three rain delays totaling 90 minutes.
Start made it 2-1 in its half of the second. Wade Anderson reached on an infield error, advanced on Ricardo Lizcano's bunt and, after Nick Ervin also reached on an infield error, Tom DeClercq plated Anderson with another bunt.
Kevin Neilly opened the third inning with a bunt single, went to third when first baseman Dan Schwarber dropped Moviel's throw after Moulton's chopper, and scored on Mike Nyitrai's groundout to first. Moulton then dived in safely at home for the 3-2 lead, scoring from second on Aaron Stewart's single to left-center.
"We adjusted to the strike zone and started hitting the ball," Stewart said. "We put it on the ground and they made errrors, and we took advantage of that."
Moulton, who threw 60 of his 95 pitches for strikes, retired 12 of the final 14 batters, with neither runner getting past first base.
"Boomer had all his pitches working," Start catcher Nyitrai said. "He was hitting his spots and just had an amazing game. He really stepped up for us. He got ahead in the count and worked his curveball."
Contact Steve Junga at: email@example.com or 419-724-6461.