Monday, March 27, 2023

Kirtland comes from behind to defeat Independence, 10-7

A six-run fifth inning helped Kirtland overcome an early 5-1 deficit to defeat over Independence, 10-7, in a non-conference game at Kirtland Recreation Park on Tuesday.

“We started a little slow today,” said Kirtland coach Luke Smrdel. “We were a little rusty after having four straight days off. We put some things together and pieced some hits together. It was a productive day after we got going.”

Kirtland, which improved to 17-8 overall, scored one in the top of the first but the Blue Devils responded with two of their own in the bottom half of the inning.

Ricky Dolejs was hit by a pitch and scored on Austin Buc’s triple. Buc was caught stealing home but the Blue Devils pushed across another run when Daniel Mathews singled and scored on Nick Niro’s double.

Independence, which dropped to 11-13, chased Kirtland starter Seth Carn from the game in the second when they added three more runs to make it 5-1.

“It seemed like Seth couldn’t get his curve ball over to start the game and he was leaving some fastballs over the plate,” Smrdel said. “They were hitting him hard.”

Kyle Stefanski got things going when he hit a one-out single and Jake Watroba and Dolejs both walked to load the bases. Mathews then hit a two-out double to clear the bases.

Michael Kmentt relieved Carn and gave up just two more runs over the next five innings to allow Kirtland to work its way back into the game.

“It was good to see Michael bounce back after rough outing against Beachwood last week,” Smrdel said. “He came out and did his job.”

The Hornets scored two in the third and one in the fourth before exploding for six in the fifth on four hits, two walks and a hit batsman.

Jacob Boyd led the Hornets with four hits and he also knocked in three runs. Vinny Matticoli, Owen Loncar, Matthew Finkler and Brendan Williamson all had two hits for Kirtland.

“Jacob was just locked in. His first four at bats were all hard line drive singles to the left side. He found a hole and was on their pitching,” Smrdel said. “From 1-9 we hit the ball solidly and we ran the bases very well. We didn’t have any extra base hits, we had 14 singles, but we hit single after single and made some things happen on the bases.”

Mathews was 3-for-4 with three RBI for Independence and Buc, Stefanski and Steven Schmetzer all had two hits for the Blue Devils.

Kirtland hosts the winner of the Wickliffe-Hawken sectional semifinal in a Division III sectional final on Friday while Independence opens the post-season on Thursday at Columbia.


Steve Hare
Steve Hare is the Chagrin Valley Conference's Sports Information Director. He also created and publishes, an online publication dedicated to providing hyperlocal coverage to area high school athletic programs. Hare began covering high school sports for the Lake County News Herald in 1997. Hare attended Willoughby South High School through the middle of his senior year, then graduated from Berkshire High School in Burton in 1986. He played football, wrestled and was an all-Geauga county baseball player (1986). He lives in Chardon with his wife Paulette and their children.

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