Eighty percent of its runs in last night's sectional baseball final were of the unearned variety, and St. Francis de Sales wasn't complaining after needing just four hits to take a 5-4 victory over Clay in Division I play at Skeldon Stadium.
"We've all been around the game long enough to know that it doesn't really matter how it happens," Knights coach Tim Gerken said of his team's four unearned runs. "We're just trying to score one more run than the opposition, and we don't care how it happens.
"Some people might question our base running tonight [two Knights were tagged out in rundowns], but we were just going to try to keep pushing."
The defending district champion Knights (11-4) will meet top-seeded Southview in a district semifinal next Thursday at 4:15 p.m.
The Cougars (19-2), ranked No. 2 in the latest D-I state coaches poll, got an unexpected challenge from Rogers in last night's first sectional final before prevailing 4-2.
Two of Clay's four errors in the game were combined with a bases-loaded walk and Lee Lukasik's sacrifice fly, enabling St. Francis to take a 2-0 lead in the second inning. That came without the benefit of a hit against hard-throwing Eagle freshman starter Jordan Grosjean, who was making just his fourth appearance in a varsity game.
The defending City League champion Eagles (12-8) used four hits to tie the game in the fourth. Austin Achter (2-for-2) tripled home Nick Sheehan, and Jesse Castilleja followed with an RBI double.
But the opportunistic Knights parlayed three hits off the 6-2, 210-pound Grosjean, plus two more Clay errors, into a 5-2 lead in the fourth.
John Metzger's groundout drove in the first run, John Fortunato followed with an RBI single, and Lukasik's one-out grounder to short brought R.J. Smith home from third.
Achter's sacrifice fly to deep right actually produced two runs in the fifth. Mike Toth tagged and scored from third, and Greg Shanks, who had singled and stolen second, also came around when Lukasik's relay throw from second pulled catcher Metzger up the line.
That bonus run allowed Clay to get within 5-4, but that was it for the Eagles against St. Francis starter Jeff Davis (3-1), who scattered seven hits in his complete-game victory.
"Jeff has been our best so far, and you've just got to ride your seniors at this point," Gerken said. "Hopefully the kids who have done it for you can do it again.
"He's going to get hit a little bit because he's around the plate all the time, and Clay always swings the bat. But you've still got to string hits together to beat us, and they didn't beat us."
Clay sophomore J.J. Miller walked to lead off the seventh, was bunted over by Toth, and got to third on Shanks' groundout. But he was stranded on Nick Sheehan's game-ending groundout to second.
"You can't give a good team four runs and expect to win," Clay coach Garry Isbell said. "It's unfortunate that we had seven hits, they had four, and we couldn't come out victorious."
In the earlier semifinal, Southview senior starting pitcher Andy Joseph struck out 15 batters and allowed just three Rogers hits over six innings. Cougar ace Kirk Stambaugh relieved in the seventh, fanning two more to earn his second save.
Southview, the Northern Lakes League's first-place team, took a 3-1 lead with two runs in the bottom of the third on a leadoff single from Dan Ampthor, a one-out RBI single from Todd Vandercook, and a two-out RBI double from Cameron O'Reilly.
Rogers' Barry Hurt singled and later scored after two errors by Southview's Everett Barton to get the upset-minded Rams (6-15) within 3-2 in the fifth inning. But Rogers got no closer and the Cougars added an insurance run in the sixth.
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