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Central Catholic senior pitcher Brett Kuebler appeared to be headed for trouble early in last night's City League baseball showdown against rival St. Francis de Sales.
It took the Fighting Irish right-hander 28 pitches to get through the first inning.
But, with some guile and plenty of help from his defense, Kuebler used just 70 pitches over the final six innings of his four-hitter as the visiting Irish took a 4-0 victory and pulled into a tie with the Knights atop the CL standings.
"The defense made some plays for me and we got out of it," Kuebler (3-2) said of his first-inning jam. "I knew our offense would come through. We've been hitting the ball hard all over the field lately. I just needed to go out and throw strikes, and the defense made plays for me, and good things happened.
"Everything was working for me today - fastball, curveball, changeup - it was all there."
"In my opinion, it was his best outing of the year," Irish coach Jeff Mielcarek said. "And for us to be a good team we need Brett to give us those outings. We beat a quality opponent and a quality pitcher today."
After three scoreless innings, Central (9-5, 7-1) manufactured the only run it would need in the fourth.
The Irish, who stranded 10 baserunners in the game, left the bases loaded in the third. But Jeff Balogh (2-for-3) led off the fourth with a roller through the third-short hole, and Ryan Ceglio bunted him to second.
Phill Dysard, the No. 9 hitter in the lineup, then delivered a clutch two-out bloop single to left, just beyond of the reach of Knights shortstop Jeff Kiel.
"I just tried to stay alive," Dysard said. "Jeff did a good job getting to second, and I was just trying to get that run in. Luckily I made contact - barely. I was going down the first base line praying, hoping it got over."
Central added two more runs in the fifth, a rally that included Kyle Burkhardt's lead-off double to left and singles from Grant Bollin and Cody Carr.
Bollin's hit drove in Burkhardt (2-for-4), and Bollin later scored when Ceglio's bases-loaded grounder was fielded by Knights third baseman Brody Henry, whose throw home became one of six errors in the game by St. Francis (8-6, 7-1).
The lack of defensive support hindered Knights senior starter Alex Radon (3-1), who struck out eight in seven innings, but allowed nine hits and walked two in his first loss of the season.
Central added a second unearned run in the sixth inning.
"Alex was good today and he probably deserved a better fate," Knights coach Tim Gerken said. "But if you don't score you're not going to win. We made six errors and several mental errors. We just didn't perform. It's that simple."
Irish shortstop Cory Lehman was 2-for-3 at the plate, including a double, lifting his season average to .512. He also handled seven chances without an error.
Knights center fielder Glenn Westphal (2-for-3) had half of his team's hits.
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