WICKLIFFE—Calvin Cackowski fanned 10 batters in leading Wickliffe to a 5-4 win over visiting Independence in a Battle of the Blue Devils at Coulby Park on Tuesday.
Wickliffe scored all five of its runs in the bottom of the sixth inning and then held off an Independence rally in the seventh to seal its win.
“With a kid of his caliber on the mound, we just knew we had to chip away and not take big swings and try to put the ball in play,” said Wickliffe coach Phil Motta of his team’s approach to hitting off of Independence pitcher Ashton Lerz, the reigning Chagrin Valley Conference Metro Division MVP. “It actually worked out for us and we got some guys on, but that was two pitchers going at each other. It was a great high school baseball game.”
Cackowski allowed three earned runs on six hits with the 10 strikeouts and no walks. Lerz allowed three earned runs on three hits in five innings of work.
Independence struck first when Mike Andryszczyk was hit bit a pitch to lead off the game and moved to second on an error. Casey McGhee then singled him home for a 1-0 lead.
Lerz and Cackowski spent the next several innings trying to outpitch the other.
Cackowski fanned eight batters through the first four innings while Lerz struck out six during the same stretch.
Wickliffe threatened in the bottom of the fourth when Colin Casey hit a leadoff single and moved to second on a ground out. Greg Kita and Shaun Derganc drew back-to-back walks to load the bases with two outs but a ground out ended the threat.
Andryszczyk reached on a fielder’s choice in the top of the sixth and reached third but Cackowski pitched out of that jam.
He then led off the bottom half of the inning with a single and moved to second on Josh Dohm’s single.
Kita then laid down a sacrifice bunt and reached on an error to load the bases with no outs. Derganc reached on a dropped third strike that tied the game at 1-1 and Nunzio Zivnoska drew a walk to give Wickliffe its first lead, 2-1.
Cy Jolliffe replaced Lerz on the mound and Jimmy Nemeth greeted him with a two-run single. Zivnoska scored on Vince Gargiulo’s ground out to push the lead to 5-1.
“We just wanted to think about one pitch at a time,” Motta said of the quality at-bats in the sixth. “We had the idea that if we had two strikes we could cut down our swings and put the ball in play because when you’ve got a guy like (Lerz) on the mound, you have to take advantage when you can.”
Independence made a run at Wickliffe in the seventh.
Rory Corrigan led off with a single and Jolliffe hit a one-out single. Both runners moved up a base due to a balk and Luke Pascarella hit a two-run double to cut Wickliffe’s lead to 5-3. Pascarella moved to third on a wild pitch and Charlie McGreal followed with a double to pull Independence to within 5-4.
Cackowski retired the next two batters to seal Wickliffe’s win.
“He’s a kid who is never going to be up real high or down too low emotionally, he’s very even,” Motta said of Cackowski. “I never had a doubt that he was going to do what he had to do. He was making good pitches but they got a couple of bloop hits there at the end. They put the bat on the ball and made good things happen. That’s a good team over there. They’re very fundamental and Jim (Crooks) does a good job with those kids and they have some good athletes.”
Casey, Cackowski, Dohm, and Nemeth had the only hits for Wickliffe.
McGhee, Corrigan, Jolliffe, Pascarella, McGreal, and Dom Narduzzi each had one hit for Independence.
“It’s a seven-inning game and we have to play seven innings,” Crooks said. “I feel like we played six really good innings today. This game had the atmosphere of a late-season game and it was very competitive. Guys made good pitches and good plays and they got one more (clutch) hit than us and they made one more play than us. That was the difference in the game and their pitcher did a really good job.”
Despite the setback, Crooks was pleased with the fight his players showed after Wickliffe’s big inning.
“I’m very pleased with the way they battled,” he said. “That’s exactly what we talked about after the game. They could have rolled over after that inning and died and they did not do that. They battled to have the tying run on second base. I was happy about the way we closed out the game, we just fell a little short.”