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Published: Sunday, 5/24/2009

St. Francis topples Titans

BY STEVE JUNGA
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
St. Francis  Kyle Wilkes can t avoid the tag of St. John s catcher
Eric Croak (16) in the sixth. Wilkes finished 2-for-3 at the plate. St. Francis Kyle Wilkes can t avoid the tag of St. John s catcher Eric Croak (16) in the sixth. Wilkes finished 2-for-3 at the plate.
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The resilient St. Francis de Sales Knights, who overcame two seven-run deficits to outlast Southview 16-15 in Thursday's Division I district baseball semifinal at Skeldon Stadium, needed no such dramatics there Saturday.

The Knights (17-7) won their first district championship in 10 years by beating City League rival St. John's Jesuit 8-4.

St. Francis used the bats of catcher Luke Goblirsch and designated hitter/pitcher Kyle Wilkes, plus the combined two-hit pitching of John Fortunato, Jeff Davis and Wilkes to advance to a regional for the first time since reaching the D-I state semifinals in 1999.

The Knights will face Anthony Wayne in a regional semifinal at 5 p.m. Thursday at Shelby High School.

Goblirsch went 3-for-4 and drove in the Knights' first three runs, and Wilkes went 2-for-3 with a pair of two-run doubles before recording the game's final two outs in relief.

Did Knights coach Tim Gerken think a district title was possible when his team was down 13-6 entering the sixth inning Thursday?

"You don't go that far in baseball," Gerken said. "You just take it half inning by half inning. That was our approach. This is the 10-year anniversary of one of our better teams. This was one of our goals, and we got it.

"We knew that [16-15] game wasn't going to show up again. That was just an oddity. We were ready to battle today and we fought really hard."

Fortunato (6-0) - who exited after allowing seven runs in 11/3 innings Thursday - was much more effective this time. He worked four innings, allowing one hit and an unearned run.

Davis pitched 21/3 innings, also yielding just one hit and one unearned run.

The Knights broke things open with a four-run rally with two outs and none on in the fourth inning against Titans starter Jacob Ray.

Lee Lukasik, the No. 9 hitter, sparked things by drawing a walk. Ray then hit Mike McNamara with a pitch and Goblirsch, who had already driven in his team's first two runs, brought home Lukasik with a single to right.

It was 4-1 after an infield single from R.J. Rios plated McNamara and chased Ray. Wilkes made it a five-run lead with a two-run double down the left-field line off reliever Chad Clendenin.

"This was very exciting," Wilkes said. "My sophomore year we lost to them when we were one pitch away from winning [in the 2007 district semifinals]. I'm glad we could pull it out today.

"We've been talking about this since December. We wanted a district. It's been a while, but now we've got it. I'm just glad we hit the ball."

All eight Knight runs scored with two outs.

"Two-out hits win big ballgames," Titans coach D.J. Eckhart said. "On the other hand, we had two hits over seven innings. We're lucky we scored four runs. We hit a bunch of balls in the air.

"John Fortunato kept us off balance for seven innings the first time we played them, and you have to have the right approach to hit a guy like that. He's a spot-type pitcher, and you're not going to get blown away by him. But, obviously we only had two hits. I still think we're one of the better hitting teams in northwest Ohio, but we didn't do it today."

St. John's (19-8) scored without benefit of a hit in the second inning.

Brett Bardwell led off and reached on shortstop Eric Aubrey's throwing error, and later scored from third on teammate Vance Hartke's one-out grounder.

St. Francis answered with two runs in its half of the second, with Aubrey and Brody Henry opening with singles and advancing on a Lukasik bunt. Goblirsch's two-run single made it a 2-1 Knights lead.

"Our bats were working real good," Goblirsch said. "The Southview game we didn't come to play right away, and then we came back. Today we were ready to play from the start."

Wilkes added his second two-run double for an 8-2 lead in the sixth, bringing home McNamara and Goblirsch, who had each singled.

St. John's second run was also unearned. Leadoff hitter Josh Holzemer reached on an errant flip by first baseman Rios, and later scored on a Jim Shaw single off Davis.

Davis walked the bases loaded in the seventh with one out before departing in favor of Wilkes, who walked in a run and yielded Eric Croak's sacrifice fly before closing the door.

Contact Steve Junga at:

sjunga@theblade.com

or 419-724-6461.



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