Wednesday, May 23, 2018
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High School

Labuhn leads Clay to CL title

After surviving a 10-inning marathon in Monday's City League baseball semifinals at Scott Park, Clay had enough left in the tank to finish the job in Tuesday night's championship game at Skeldon Stadium.

The top-seeded Eagles (17-8) won their second City title in three years by rallying to beat defending champion Central Catholic 8-6.

"We kept battling," Clay coach Karl Knierim said. "We had some losses throughout the year, but we stayed with it and we got some key wins when we needed to here at the end.

"I'm proud as heck of them. They've worked real hard for this and they deserve it."

Senior catcher Jonathon Labuhn, an otherwise unheralded catcher and No. 7 hitter in the lineup, excelled in the playoffs. Last night he was 2-for-3 at the plate and drove in the go-ahead run in the fifth inning.

Combined with his 4-for-5 effort in Monday's 6-5 win over St. John's Jesuit, Labuhn was 6-for-8 with four RBIs and was named most valuable player for the playoffs.

"I played the best baseball I've played in my entire life these last two days, and I didn't want to go out with a loss," Labuhn said. "I wanted to go out strong as a senior, and we wanted to leave everything on the field."

A more heralded senior, Drew Kuns, who will play at Bowling Green State University next year, followed up his seven-inning win in relief Monday by pitching a 1-2-3 seventh to close the championship last night. He relieved winning pitcher Mike Toth, who scattered 10 hits over six innings.

"When I was warming up, it felt kind of stiff," Kuns said of his right arm. "But once I hit the mound it all disappeared, the adrenaline took over and I just threw the ball. This team can survive anything. We're a tough bunch."

Clay broke the game open in the bottom of the fifth, rallying for five runs on three hits with the aid of two hit batsmen and a walk.

With the Eagles down 5-3, Kyle Romstadt opened things when he was hit by Central starter Cody Carr. After Kuns singled to left, Carr hit Toth with another pitch to load the bases.

Jeremy Spalding relieved Carr and walked Austin Petroff to force in the first run. Austin Achter singled to tie the game, and Labuhn singled to put Clay up 6-5.

"[Monday] was a tough game and we fought through it," Toth said. "I knew that was going to be a big momentum builder coming into this one, and we got it done."

Still batting with no outs, Clay's next two runs came in on back-to-back groundouts from Matt Murray and Greg Shanks.

"We were in the game," Central coach Jeff Mielcarek said, "but from the beginning we were fighting from behind. They just made a couple more pitches, a couple more plays and put the bat on the ball a couple more times.

"That [fifth] inning had a big impact on the game but, like I told our kids, it's not one pitch or one inning today. We had our chances today and we didn't do what we needed to do to win a game."

Central answered with a run in the sixth, when Alex Geis hit a one-out single and later scored on Grant Bollin's infield single.

But the Irish (11-15) got no closer in bidding for a repeat CL title.

Central DH Kenny Heban was 3-for-4 in the game, including a two-run single that put the Irish up 4-3 in the third. That was after Clay capitalized for three runs after a two-out Irish error in the second.

Geis, the center fielder, made a long run for Achter's deep fly, but dropped the ball. Achter reached third, Labuhn followed with an RBI single and, after Carr walked the next two batters, Paul Zalar hit a two-run single to right.

The Irish made it 5-3 in the fourth when Drew Lehman bunted for a single and later scored on Kyle Burkhardt's sacrifice fly.

Contact Steve Junga at:

or 419-724-6461.

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