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Published: Tuesday, 4/24/2012

Eagles slip by Irish in 11 innings

Clay pitcher Grosjean gets victory after going 10 strong innings

BY STEVE JUNGA
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Oregon Clay's JJ Miller (4) makes a play against Central Catholic's Derek Hafner (5) at second base during the first inning at Mercy Field in Toledo. Oregon Clay's JJ Miller (4) makes a play against Central Catholic's Derek Hafner (5) at second base during the first inning at Mercy Field in Toledo.
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Clay junior Jordan Grosjean had pitched too well for 10 innings not to earn a victory.

After a Central Catholic error in the 11th inning, the hard-throwing right-hander got one.

The Eagles slipped past the Irish 3-2 in Three Rivers Athletic Conference baseball game Monday at Mercy Field.

Clay (4-9, 3-1 TRAC) scored the winning run after Irish reliever Derich Weiland had retired the first two batters in the top of the 11th.

A.J. Burns drew a walk, stole second base, and came around to score when Irish third baseman Andrew Faunce threw high over first baseman Jake Rudnicki on Kaleb Kuzma's hit-and-run ground ball.

Grosjean (2-1) had been superb through 10 innings, yielding just four hits and no walks with six strikeouts while throwing 78 of his 110 pitches for strikes.

"That was a very nervous game," Grosjean said. "Central's a good hitting team, so you can't go out there and try to strike everyone out. You have to rely on your infielders and outfielders, and Robson came in and did a nice job. He saved my butt."

Nearly Grosjean's equal was Central's senior right-hander, Evan McNair, who worked eight innings, allowing six hits and five walks while striking out six Eagles in his 114-pitch, 70-strike effort.

Clay pitcher Jordan Grosjean threw 10 innings against Central Catholic, allowing just one run on four hits. He struck out six and walked none. Clay pitcher Jordan Grosjean threw 10 innings against Central Catholic, allowing just one run on four hits. He struck out six and walked none.
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"Both pitchers threw extremely well and both defenses played extremely well," said Clay coach Garry Isbell, whose Eagles were errorless. "Eleven innings in a high school game and it's about 40 degrees out here.

"Sooner or later someone's bound to break. Fortunately for us our kids stayed strong the whole way through. Jordan Grosjean threw an excellent game and was very efficient with his pitches, Lucas Robson came in to finish it off, and we got the big play when it counted."

The Irish (5-8, 1-2) had a prime chance to tie the game in the bottom of the 11th, when Jake Rudnicki (2-for-4, double, triple, RBI) led off with a triple to the gap in right-center off Eagles reliever Lucas Robson.

But Robson got Nick LaPorta on a grounder to third, then struck out Weiland and Joe Solomon to end the game and earn the save.

"Their third baseman [Bryce Castilleja] made a nice play, and that's just baseball," Central coach Jeff Mielcarek said. "We had our chances a couple times, and didn't get it. That's the way it goes. We'll bounce back and see what we can do."

Clay got on the board in the opening inning. Leadoff hitter J.J. Miller got help from gusting winds, which sent his drive past Irish right fielder Mitchell Cochell for a triple.

Miller later dashed home when Castilleja, who had walked, was thrown out by Central catcher Tyler Wagner attempting to steal second.

McNair helped his own cause in the second. He fouled off a two-out, two-strike pitch before lining a single to center, stealing second base, and then scoring on Rudnicki's double to the gap in right-center to tie the game.

With Grosjean retiring 19 straight batters at one point, the game remained tied until the ninth inning, when Brett Jordan reached on a fielder's choice. Stole second and advanced to third on a groundout.

Kuzma struck out for what would have been the third out, but a passed ball on Wagner allowed Kuzma to reach first safely, and enabled Jordan to score for a 2-1 Clay lead.

Central extended the game after Weiland led off the bottom of the ninth with a sharp single to center, breaking up Grosjean's run of consecutive batters retired.

Weiland stole second base, Solomon bunted him to third, and Derek Hafner's sacrifice fly to center knotted things 2-2.

"It was a great high school baseball game and we just gave them probably a couple too many chances there late in the game," Mielcarek said. "But I was proud of our kids. They battled."

"Today, I had little bit of everything [pitch-wise], and that definitely helped," Grosjean said. "This was a great win. My heart is still going. It helps us pull together as a team."

Contact Steve Junga at: sjunga@theblade.com 419-724-6461, or on Twitter @JungaBlade.



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