It turns out the Berkshire baseball team is pretty good when it has its back up against the wall.
The Badgers, who at one time controlled their own destiny in the Chagrin Valley Conference Valley Division, were forced to win their final four league games to earn a share of its first league title since 2012.
Berkshire beat Fairport Harding, 6-1, on Thursday to improve to 12-8 overall and 7-1 in conference play. The Badgers share the CVC Valley Division championship with Kirtland.
“Like I told our guys, our program is back on the upswing,” said Berkshire coach Steve Smetana. “I saw that last year and this year when we picked CVC preseason favorites. I thought it would be us and Kirtland this year. I told them if we’re playing well as a team we’re going to be right there in the hunt for the CVC championship.”
The Badgers defeated Kirtland 10-5 back on April 27 to move into first place but an 8-6 loss to the Hornets the next day left the two teams tied atop the standings. Kirtland closed out its conference schedule earlier in the week, leaving the Badgers in a must-win situation.
Junior Jarett Smetana went the distance against Harvey. He allowed just one unearned run in the seventh inning on four hits and he struck out 13.
“Jarett has been good all year,” Coach Smetana said. “His last probably three outings he’s thrown he’s finally found his rhythm on the mound. He had some really good stuff behind the ball lately and again against Fairport. We’ve always had a stigma in the first inning with Fairport. We’ve always struggled with them. When he came out throwing strikes I knew he was going to have good day.”
The Badgers only collected six hits but they made the most of them.
They scored one run in the top of the first and added two more in the second. Their 3-run fifth put the game away.
“We didn’t play our best game but we hit a lot of balls hard,” Coach Smetana said. “Fairport helped us out a little bit on the defensive side and with Jarett on the mound I knew a one or two run lead would be enough.”
Connor Dudinsky led the Badgers with two hits, including a double, and he also scored two runs. Will Blechschmid had a hit and a team-high three runs batted in.
Smetana, Gordy Cossick and Miles Chapman, who doubled home a run, also had hits for Berkshire.
“Will Blechschmid was 1-for-3 for he had three RBI on the day. That was big,” Coach Smetana said. “Connor started off slow this year but the last few games he’s really turned it on. Him and Luke Byler, they’ve really done well as of late. Luke Byler has been our hottest hitter the last game or two.”
Dudinsky, Berkshire’s leadoff hitter, has developed into an all-around player and team leader.
“Connor has been our leadoff hitter the last three years,” Coach Smetana said. “He’s grown and matured. He’s a lot faster now and he’s driving the ball and getting extra base hits for us. That’s great to see your ball players come into their own.”
The Badgers host Warren Howland on Monday.