Last night's clash between City League baseball's preseason favorites St. John's Jesuit and visiting Clay figured to be a tight battle.
But the Titans removed much of the potential drama in the opening inning en route to a 9-2 victory over Ohio's fourth-ranked Division I team.
St. John's (11-4, 7-0) got to Clay starting pitcher Patrick Martin for four first-inning runs on four hits, forcing the Eagles lefty to use 41 pitches to get the first three outs.
That was plenty for Titans starter Ben Kauder, who blanked Clay (18-2, 6-2) over the first five innings while his teammates were used a 12-hit attack to open a 9-0 lead through four.
"After every hitter I tried to refocus and get my mind straight about working ahead and not throwing them too many fat pitches," Kauder (3-1) said of his five-hitter.
"Ben did a real nice job," Titans coach Ed Mouch said. "After the sixth inning he said he lost a little bit of focus instead of pitching the way he had been. But he's done a great job all year for us and he gave us another quality start today."
Martin (3-2) entered the game as the CL's earned run average leader with a microscopic 0.28 mark. But, after yielding nine hits and all nine runs over 31/3 innings, the six earned runs he allowed raised it to 1.75.
The three unearned Titan runs were the product of five Clay errors.
After Kauder worked a 1-2-3 first inning, St. John's Val Helldobler got things rolling with a double to the left-center.
"The top of the order got us going early," Mouch said of his leadoff man. "V [Helldobler] got a good swing and it just went from there. We were lucky. Patrick's a very good pitcher and he fell behind to a couple good hitters, and our guys came through with some clutch hits."
Titans center fielder Ross Hartwig followed with a one-out single, Jake Cappelletty had an RBI double and Mike Wilson added an RBI single.
"That start gave us a lot of momentum," Cappelletty said. "Helldobler starting off with that double really got us going. That opened up the door for a lot of other people to start hitting. We realized we could put some runs up on them."
Cappelletty (3-for-3) singled in the third and later scored on K.C. Dippman's single for a 5-0 lead.
St. John's then chased Martin while batting around in the fourth. A Dan Kujawa single was followed by Ryan Mouch's sacrifice bunt and Helldobler's RBI double. Hartwig (3-for-4) contributed an RBI single in the fourth, as did Dippman.
"They're a very good team and they set the tone of the game early on, and we didn't respond," Clay coach Karl Knierim said. "We knew St. John's was a very good team coming in. We played 'em last year and they were very solid and they have everybody back. We just weren't up to the task today. With what happened today, it certainly gives us a look at where we need to get better."
Clay avoided the shutout in the sixth inning when leadoff hitter Ross Knierim and A.J. Achter sandwiched doubles around Martin's bunt single. Casey Winckowski's sacrifice fly brought Martin home with the game's final run.
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