In an otherwise cumbersome baseball game strewn with mistakes, St. Francis de Sales parlayed a two-out rally into five runs in the second inning Thursday night, then held on for an 8-4 Three Rivers Athletic Conference win against visiting Central Catholic.
“That was just opportunistic baseball,” Knights coach Tim Gerken said. “It was a goofy game all the way around. When you have your opportunities, you hope you can cash in a few, and we did. It was nice putting a crooked number up there early against them.”
Senior Kenzie Mayo, the third of four pitchers for the Knights (11-1, 2-0 TRAC), was a stabilizer in earning the victory in a game where seven pitchers saw action. The two teams combined for seven errors.
Entering with one out in the fourth inning and St. Francis up 6-3, Mayo stranded the two runners he inherited to quell a potential rally by the Irish (4-6, 1-1).
PHOTO GALLERY: CCHS vs. St. Francis
Mayo worked 2⅔ innings before turning things over to Matthew Zmuda with two runners aboard. Zmuda recorded the final three outs, including a sacrifice fly for Central’s final run.
In the pivotal second inning, the Knights used a two-out walk to ignite their crucial uprising.
Trailing 1-0 after Central’s Chad Kuebler singled, stole second, and scored on an error by Knights shortstop Eric Zmuda, St. Francis DH Nick Lankard worked Irish starter Mike Gstalder for a walk.
Knights catcher Michael Wagner (2 for 3, RBI) singled to left field to plate Lankford, who had advanced on a wild pitch.
“This is a big win for us,” Wagner said. “Central’s always a big rivalry for us, and they’re always pretty good. We had to bring out our best. We hit the ball and played defense.
“That [rally] was huge because, once you get momentum like that, it’s hard for a team to come back. It was great for us to keep that inning going.”
Gstalder then hit Joey White with a pitch, and leadoff hitter Eric Zmuda smashed to two-run triple to center field for a 3-1 St. Francis lead.
Eric Zmuda then scored on an error by Central second baseman Ryan O’Hearn, and Cody Lewis ultimately scored the fifth run of the rally on a single to left by Miccoy Drzewiecki.
“That was a tough one,” Central coach Jeff Mielcarek said of the second inning. “They put the pressure on us, and they kept the pressure on us. We didn’t do what we needed to do. I take full responsibility, because it begins with me.
“Hopefully we’ll get better because of this loss. Defense needs to be our strength, and today it wasn’t. Right now we’re struggling offensively, so we’ve got to make all the plays and not give away any freebies.”
The Irish answered with two runs in the top of the third, when Knights starter Josh Williams hit Derich Weiland with a pitch to open the inning, and Joe Solomon reached on second baseman Andy Okuley’s throwing error, which enabled Weiland to score.
Solomon later scored on Kuebler’s two-out double to center field.
The Knights scored their sixth run in the third inning and added two insurance runs in the fourth. Drzewiecki and Max Lyon opened the fourth inning with singles, and both eventually scored on a two-out throwing error by Central shortstop Jake Rudnicki.
“Kenzie Mayo’s got great movement on his ball, so he’s hard to hit,” Wagner said of the Knights’ pitcher. “It’s almost like a curveball every time, so it’s hard for the hitters to pick that up.
“We’re starting to feel some momentum, but we’ve got to keep our heads level. There’s still a lot of the season to go, and anything can happen.”
Gerken acknowledged that his team may have to win many games this year by using its full roster, especially its pitching staff.
“High school sports is all about momentum, but with baseball it can come and go so quickly,” Gerken said of the Knights’ 11-1 start. “You want to win the big games. We’re just trying to keep grinding. This is a fun team.”
Contact Steve Junga at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6461 or on Twitter @JungaBlade.