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Published: Friday, 5/22/2009

Knights still standing


St. Francis de Sales will meet City League rival St. John's Jesuit in the Division I district baseball final tomorrow at noon, and the routes each took last night to arrive there were decidedly different.

In the first semifinal, St. Francis (16-7) outlasted Southview 16-15, overcoming two seven-run deficits to advance after a wild, 3-hour, 25-minute marathon that had a combined 34 hits.

St. John's (19-7) jumped on Clay from the outset and rode the two-hit pitching of right-hander Zach Leffler to an 8-0 victory. The second semifinal began nearly two hours after its scheduled

6:30 start.

St. Francis rallied for two runs in the top of the seventh inning after Taylor Ullom, Southview's fourth pitcher, retired the first two batters. Ullom then walked Scott Schimmel but had two strikes on Knight leadoff hitter Mike McNamara while bidding for the save.

McNamara fouled off one two-strike pitch, then completed a 4-for-6 game by delivering an RBI double to tie the game. He then scored on a single by Luke Goblirsch.

Southview (18-9), which had rallied for two runs to go up 15-14 in the bottom of the sixth, got a leadoff single from Kody Weiss to start its half of the seventh.

Goblirsch got the last three outs to strand Weiss and record the save. He was the St. Francis catcher for the first six innings.

"You just keep playing the game," Knights coach Tim Gerken said. "I didn't know if we brought the warrior mentality today. I guess we did.

"Your hat goes off to Southview, and I'm just happy for our kids. We were down to our catcher throwing to our other catcher."

Southview, which banged out 19 hits, squandered leads of 10-3 after four innings and 13-6 after five. Cameron O'Reilly's three-run triple in the fifth gave Southview starting pitcher Kirk Stambaugh the second seven-run lead after he had completed his five-inning, eight-strikeout stint.

Pivotal in the game was an eight-run sixth inning for St. Francis, which started with Cougar reliever Thomas Stiff walking five of the first six batters he faced, then exiting after Schimmel's bases-loaded, two-run single made it 13-11.

In all, 13 Knights batted in the sixth. Steve Joyce's ground-rule double to left field brought home R.J. Rios (3-for-5) with the go-ahead run.

"Coach Gerken's spread offense was a lot better than our offense today," Southview coach Ed Mouch said of the football-like score.

"We had our guys on the mound that we wanted, but give St. Francis credit. They kept battling and chipping away and putting the ball in play. They had some great at-bats, fouling off pitches with two strikes and then getting hits. Our guys battled too. We just came up one run short."

This game actually included fewer runs than the first meeting between these teams. Southview topped the Knights 19-14 in a game at Ottawa Hills on April 25.

St. John's scored two runs in the first, third, and fourth innings to go ahead 6-0. Eric Croak's two-run single highlighted the third inning, and Vance Hartke's two-run home run to left, which chased Clay Starter Mike Toth, keyed the fourth.

Meanwhile, Leffler cruised through the Eagle lineup, striking out nine and walking five. Clay managed just singles from Toth and Andrew Kuns.

The Titans added single runs in the fifth and sixth innings.

St. John's and Clay (15-8) will meet again in Monday's City League playoff semifinals at Scott Park. St. Francis faces Central Catholic in the other CL semifinal.

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