It will be a Battle of Sylvania in next Thursday's Division I district baseball semifinals, as both Southview and Northview pulled upsets in a pair of swiftly-played sectional finals Thursday at Mercy Field.
Southview (11-11) advanced by beating Whitmer 3-1 in the 92-minute first contest behind the strong pitching of lanky 6-foot-4, 175-pound senior right-hander Parker Wall, who scattered seven hits while striking out nine and walking just one.
Northview (8-11) then needed just 85 minutes to blank St. Francis de Sales 4-0 in the second sectional final, and senior right-handed pitcher Brandyn Hall needed just 64 pitches to breeze through the 16-6 Knights' lineup, yielding just two hits.
Southview and Northview will square off at 6:45 p.m. next Thursday at Mercy Field, following the 4:15 p.m. district semifinal between top-seeded St. John's Jesuit (14-5) and Clay (8-12).
On the brink of victory with a 2-2 count on Whitmer's Jake Lawniczak and two out in the seventh, Wall had to summon some extra adrenaline to close things out after Lawniczak singled to right.
That hit sent Panther pinch-runner Clayton Swartz to third base with Lawniczak advancing to second on the throw. But, with the tying run in scoring position, Wall bore down and fanned Michael Verroco for the final out.
"He was staying in until he lost the game or we went extra innings," Southview coach Ed Mouch said of Wall finishing. "We probably would've made a change then, but he's been our No. 1 all year long and he's a senior. He's got to be able to pull those games out for us."
Southview took a 2-0 lead in the top of the second inning on a leadoff double to right by Adam Klepzig and one-out singles from Daniel Barnes and Griffin McDonald.
McDonald's hit down the third-base line plated Klepzig from third, and Barnes later scored on a Whitmer error on Colin Boerst's steal of second.
The Cougars made it 3-0 in the third when Jordan Grunberg walked and later scored on Klepzig's single to left.
"A lot of it was our defensive plays," Wall said of the Cougars' errorless effort. "It really helped me out having that defense behind me. My fastball had good speed on it, but really my curveball was keeping [us] in the game."
Verroco got Whitmer on the board in the bottom of the third, belting a leadoff triple and scoring on Tyler LaFountain's sacrifice fly to center.
Panther pitcher Blake Melchert also went the distance, yielding just five hits, a walk, and two hit batsmen while striking out seven.
"[Wall] kept us completely off balance all game, and that's been our demise against guys who throw a lot of off-speed and change location," Whitmer coach Gary O'Connor said. "We had a lot of trouble with that today.
"We had opportunities, but Southview played a great game. They didn't make any mistakes, and they hit the ball when they needed to."
Northview and Hall got a couple early pick-me-ups from the Wildcat defense, which turned inning-ending double plays in the first and third.
"I just threw the ball over the plate and let my team make the plays for me," Hall said. "I was mixing in some off-speed and letting them put the ball in play. Once we got the lead that put me in a comfort zone, and I locked in and didn't let them score."
The Wildcats caught fire with the bats against Knights starter Max Lyon, using three hits in the top of the fourth to grab a 2-0 lead, and three more in the fourth to add a run.
Dalton Carter and Kyle Kremchek sparked things with back-to-back two-out singles, and Aaron Archambeau walked to load the bases for No. 8 hitter Jeff Small, who delivered a clutch two-run single to center in the fourth.
After Northview loaded the bases on singles from Joey DiPofi, Tony Mazziotti, and Cody Estrel in the fifth, Carter made it 3-0 with a sacrifice fly to left.
The Wildcats added an insurance run in the sixth when Archambeau led off with a double to left-center and later scored after being trapped in a rundown on teammate Donnie Nagle's bunt. Archambeau collided with Knights third baseman Jimmy O'Shea, who dropped the ball, allowing Archambeau to race home.
"Brandyn's worked hard and put in the time and effort," Northview coach Aaron Tullis said. "He's in good shape. We had a plan, and he executed it."
Hall, who allowed just two singles, hit one batter, walked none, and struck out five Knights. The other St. Francis baserunner reached on a first-inning error.
"It was one of those games," Knights coach Tim Gerken said. "You've only got to be better than the team you play the day you play them, and they were the better team today.
"Good teams should be aggressive [at the plate] and they were today, and it paid off for them."
Contact Steve Junga at: firstname.lastname@example.org 419-724-6461, or on Twitter @JungaBlade.