BURTON—Berkshire exploded for four first-inning runs in its 10-5 win over visiting Kirtland on Monday in a matchup of the Chagrin Valley Conference Valley Divison’s top two teams.
A win over the Hornets in Kirtland on Tuesday would give the Badgers a two-game cushion in its quest for the league title. The Hornets need a win to keep alive its quest for the conference crown.
“As far as (Tuesday’s game), I told my guys they’re in control of their own destiny,” said Berkshire coach Steve Smetana. “We’ve got to come out and act like it but you’ve got to play like it in the field.”
The Badgers, who improved to 8-7 overall and 3-0 in CVC play, came out like champions on Monday. Their first four batters all reached base safely and scored to give Berkshire an early 4-0 lead against one of the most dominating pitchers in Northeast Ohio.
Kirtland’s Matthew Finkler entered the game having allowed just one earned run in 25 2/3 innings and never allowed more than two hits in any one game.
Back-to-back walks to Connor Dudinsky and Aaron Pawlak set up Jarett Smetana’s two RBI single. Gordy Cossick then singled and scored on Will Blechschmid’s sacrifice fly to make it 4-0.
“Before the game I told my team that he throws a lot of strikes,” Smetana said about his team’s approach to facing Finkler. “I told them not to give up on any pitches and get your pitch. He might have been a little bit off today, I don’t know. We just did a good job making contact.”
Finkler allowed just eight hits in his previous five outings combined but allowed as many to the Badgers in four innings.
“He wasn’t throwing bad. They were just on him,” said Kirtland coach Luke Smrdel. “He was in the zone but they hit well. I give them a lot of credit. They played a good game. It was impressive. We’ve got some adjustments to make.”
The Hornets, who dropped to 11-6 overall and 4-1 in the CVC, made those adjustments to cut Berkshire’s lead in half in the second.
Andrew Hutton reached on a fielder’s choice and Owen Loncar and Vinny Matticoli hit back-to-back RBI singles to cut Berkshire’s lead to 4-2.
The Badgers responded with two of their own courtesy of Cossick’s two-run blast over the left field fence.
“I was really searching for a No. 4 hitter this year,” Smetana said. “(Cossick) struggled a bit last year and it looked like early in the year that he was going to be our guy. He’s bigger and faster this year and stronger and he’s got the potential to be that guy. He’s really come through all year for us.”
Kirtland added one in the fourth and two in the sixth but the Badgers kept pace with two in the fourth and another in the sixth to seal it.
Jarett Smetana picked up the win for the Badgers after allowing three runs on three hits in five innings of work. Miles Chapman threw the final two innings for Berkshire.
Pawlak finished the game 2-for-3 with three runs scored, a double and a walk. Smetana was 2-for-4 with two runs scored and Cossick was 3-for-3 with three runs scored and the two-run homer.
Anthony Fortuna led the Hornets with two hits, including an RBI double in the fourth.
“He’s hitting the cover off the ball,” Smrdel said. “His approach to the plate is great. All our guys hit the ball. I’m pretty happy with that.”
Smrdel will be much happier if the Hornets can earn a split with the Badgers on Tuesday.
“I just said to the guys to turn the page and get ready,” Smrdel said. “They said the same thing that tomorrow will be different. We’re going to come out ready to play and hopefully we can take it at home and get to the same point they are in the conference right now.”