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Published: 5/10/2006

Clay, St. John's win baseball sectional titles

BY STEVE JUNGA
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Aaron Kovacs (15) congratulates Ross Knierim for scoring from second to give the Eagles a 4-0 lead, as mates join in. Aaron Kovacs (15) congratulates Ross Knierim for scoring from second to give the Eagles a 4-0 lead, as mates join in.
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The field for Monday's Division I baseball district semifinals at Skeldon Stadium is set.

Clay avenged its City League loss to Bowsher from six days earlier, topping the Rebels 8-2 in last night's first sectional final at Skeldon. And, in another matchup of CL teams, St. John's Jesuit beat 2005 state runner-up Start 2-1 in the second sectional final here.

Monday's district semifinals pit St. Francis de Sales (19-5) against Northview (8-9) at 5 p.m., with Clay (16-5) and St. John's (15-7) meeting at 7:30.

Clay junior starting pitcher A.J. Achter worked hard to raise his season record to 5-2. He needed 133 pitches to dispatch the Rebels (15-9), who defeated the Eagles 4-1 last Wednesday.

Achter - who struck out 10 batters and scattered seven hits - escaped trouble in the second inning, stranding two runners. He then got all the support he would need in the Eagles' next two turns at bat.

"We tried to move the runners, get 'em in scoring position and stay out of the double-play situations," Clay coach Karl Knierim said. "Last time they played real well against us defensively, and they doubled us up in some key situations.

"We tried to stay out of those situations as much as we could, and luckily we got some opportune hits."

Sophomore left fielder Michael Romano tripled home two runs in the bottom of the second inning, and a single by Casey Winckowski (3-for-3) plated Patrick Martin for a 3-0 lead in the third.

"We weren't getting the bunts down," Bowsher coach Craig Meinzer said. "We told 'em the little things - bunting, missing signs and all that stuff - were going to come back and bite us, and they did. It showed in that second inning."

Clay broke things open in the fifth inning, turning five hits into four runs off Bowsher starter Tim Henneman (5-1). Brent Graham, Derek Spencer and Romano (2-for-3, 3 RBIs) each delivered run-scoring doubles in that uprising.

The Rebels managed single unearned runs off Achter in the sixth and seventh innings when Clay chipped in with the game's only two errors.

In the second game, St. John's scored the game-winning run in the top of the seventh inning when junior catcher Sam Kusina blooped a single to center field to bring shortstop K.C. Dippman around from second base.

Junior pitcher Tim Corbey (6-1) went the distance for St. John's, scattering nine hits and striking out 11. He ended the game by picking Start's LeTroy Harris off second base to force a rundown, during which Corbey eventually made the tag.

The resulting collision on the game's final play nearly sparked a bench-clearing altercation, but cooler heads prevailed.

The Titans, who were blanked 1-0 by Start's Jason Moulton (7-1) in CL play, scored a run off the junior right-hander in the first inning. Ross Hartwig led off with a single, moved up on Dippman's sacrifice bunt, and scored on Corbey's single to center.

The Spartans (19-4) tied it in the bottom of the third, with catcher Garrett Busch singling and later scoring on a Harris single.

Corbey tightroped his way out of bases-loaded, one-out situations in the third and fifth innings, fanning Josh Miranda and Tim Trabbic each time to keep things knotted.

"I knew my defense had my back, so I wanted to keep throwing strikes and not walk guys," Corbey said of his confidence in the crucial spots. "It was great to get the job done there, and it's nice to finally get the monkey off my back. I hadn't beaten Start [over] two years."

Moulton also had 11 strikeouts in the loss and allowed just five hits.

Contact Steve Junga at:

sjunga@theblade.com

or 419-724-6461.



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