MIDDLEFIELD–A five-run seventh inning led Garrettsville Garfield to a 10-8 win over host Cardinal in a Division III sectional semifinal on Thursday.
Cardinal scored four runs in the first and three more in the third to take control of the game but the G-Men battled back and took advantage of four hits and two errors in their final at bat to pull out the victory.
“We came out and played pretty well in the beginning and pushed some runs across,” said Cardinal coach Brian George. “We made mistakes here and there and they cost us. There’s no one person to look at or one play, we just spread everything around.”
The Huskies, who close out the 2015 campaign with an 8-15 record, jumped out to a 4-1 lead in the first when Cody Purpura singled and Ryan Bruncak and Clark Thurling drew back-to-back walks to load the bases.
A strike out temporarily halted the Huskies’ momentum but Evan List drew a bases loaded walk and Joe Tucker singled home Bruncak and Thurling to make it 3-1. List scored on Brant Zemelka’s ground out.
Garfield pulled to within 4-3 with two runs in the second but the Huskies came back with three in the third.
KC Cress, List and Tucker all singled and Zemelka and Zach Retych both were hit by a pitch in the inning. Purpura also had a sacrifice fly.
The G-Men put up two runs in the fifth to Cardinal’s one then exploded for five unearned runs in the seventh.
Garfield’s Nick Kaiser struck out three and walked one in the bottom of the seventh to pick up the save.
“It was too little, too late against Kaiser,” George said. “He’s a pretty good pitcher. He’s throwing 82 or maybe touching 85, so he’s a pretty tough kid. We just made too many mistakes in the end.”
The loss ended the careers of a dozen Cardinal seniors.
“This is a great group of seniors,” George said. “There’s 12 of these guys. Most of them have been around for four years. They’ve been a great group to work with and a great group that really as a coach I kind of grew up with. I started out coaching them as a young coach and now I’m an old guy on the staff and they’re going away. I’m just really proud of these kids and what they’ve accomplished and done.”
The Husky seniors were part of a team that won a sectional title and advanced to the district semifinals last season. Individually, they grew and developed into solid student-athletes.
“You look for things with each one of these guys and things that they accomplish and things they’ve done,” George said. “KC Cress and Clark Thurling are hitting above .400 and KC got his 100th varsity hit. Evan has been a pretty good hitter for us in the middle of the lineup. Logan Schultz has helped. Ryan Bruncak making over the shoulder catches at Garrettsville.
“I’m just extremely proud of these guys. They’re all very good athletes and ball players but they’re better young men and I couldn’t be prouder of them. They’re going to be a great success no matter what they do in life.”
Lauren Peterson contributed to this story.