Kirtland traveled to Euclid on Saturday and defeated the Panthers, 9-0, to even up its season record at 5-5.
The win over a Division I program was even sweeter for Kirtland head coach Luke Smrdel, who has taught at Euclid for the last 12 years and spent six years as the pitching coach for the Panthers.
“Anytime we’re able to pull off a win against a higher division team, it’s a big feat,” Smrdel said. “Our non-conference schedule is pretty difficult but helps us get prepared for the tournament. Every win is big for us, but beating Euclid is just a bit sweeter than most non-conference wins. A lot of their kids are former students of mine, which makes it a fun little rivalry for both teams.”
The Hornets mustered just six hits against the Panthers but executed well on offense to turn nine walks in scoring opportunities.
“Our coaches constantly talk to our guys about situational hitting, how we need to move runners up, and try to put a number on the board every inning,” Smrdel said. “With our younger roster this year, it’s great to see them starting to understand the importance of moving guys on the bases and bunting when needed. We are pretty aggressive in general stealing bases as well.”
Mike Zeuli got things started when hit a two-out double in the first and scored on a Ryan Lipps single.
Zeuli finished 2-for-4 with two runs scored.
“It was cold out and the wind was blowing in so I tried to just shorten up my swing and hit a pitch that I knew I could drive,” Zeuli said. “We were trying to get on base any way possible. When pitchers are struggling to throw strikes, we just have to do anything to get on base and then we had to drive runs in when we have guys in scoring position.”
Lipps drew a two-out walk in the third then stole second and third. He scored on a groundout to make it 2-0.
The Hornets scored three in the fourth when Mike Alfieri drew a one-out walk and Luke Potosky was hit by a pitch. Jack Dever then doubled and later scored on an error.
Kirtland added two more in the fifth and one run in both the sixth and seventh innings to close out the scoring.
Seann McGill and Zeuli combined to keep the Panthers off the scoreboard.
“Anytime you see a zero after seven innings for the opponents, you know no matter how you got there, it was a very good day for the pitchers,” Smrdel said.
McGill allowed five hits and struck out six in 4 2/3 innings to pick up the win.
“Seann has the potential to be a very good pitcher for us and today he did a good job overall,” Smrdel said. “We need him to keep improving on his strike to ball ratio and limit the amount of free bases he gives up. Even though he gave them some free bases today, he was able to work through a bunch of jams and get the job done.”
Zeuli pitched the final 2 1/3 innings. He allowed one hit and struck out two.