Friday, December 1, 2023

Kirtland earns series sweep over Independence

KIRTLAND—Clutch hitting and a complete game from Mason Sullivan led Kirtland to a 12-2 five-inning win over visiting Independence at Recreation Park on Tuesday.

With the win, the Hornets earned a series sweep of the Blue Devils and improved to 5-3 overall and 4-0 in the Chagrin Valley Conference Valley Division.

“We limited the mistakes, we hit the ball well and Mason pitched a great game,” Kirtland coach Luke Smrdel said. “When you put the ball in play, good things happen. We have to keep doing that.”

Kirtland manufactured a run in the first when speedster Joey Torok drew a leadoff walk and then the school’s career stolen base leader swiped a pair of bases and scored on Seann McGill’s single.

The Hornets added four more runs on just one hit in the second and added four runs on four hits in the third to increase their lead to 9-0. Kirtland added a run in the fourth.

“We just keep getting guys on base,” Smrdel said. “As long as we get the situational hitting down and move runners up we should be able to score runners pretty regularly.”

Independence temporarily fought off the run rule when the Blue Devils scored two runs with two down in the top of the fifth.

Sam Belitz singled to start the rally and Connor Blum, Jordan Mallernee and Jamie McMahon all followed with singles.

“We’ve got to put up more than two runs in a game in order to beat a team like this,” Independence coach Jim Crooks said. “Offensively, we’ve got to continue to work on bringing runs across the plate.”

Kirtland scored two runs in the bottom half of the inning to close out the game.

McGill led the way for the Hornets as he finished 2-for-3 with four runs batted in.

“He’s a guy that uses the whole field,” Smrdel said of McGill. “He puts the ball in play and hits a lot of line drives. He gets a lot of RBIs that way doing what he needs to do.”

Nick Ribic and Reese VanArnhem both pounded out three hits and scored two runs for the Hornets.

Sullivan picked up his first win after allowing two earned runs on eight hits and fanning three.

He threw just 72 pitches in five innings of work.

“That’s what we expect out of him,” Smrdel said. “We know he throws a lot of strikes and commands the zone. He’s a guy that’s going to go out and get the job done most of the time. That’s what we look for him to do.”

Belitz, Bloom and Tim Marcinko all finished with two hits for Independence.

Brad Watroba took the loss on the mound.

“To be successful at baseball, we’ve got to play a complete game, pitching, offense and defense,” Crooks said. “Brad got ahead of hitters and he did a great job early in the game on the mound, but that can’t be without plays behind him defensively. We lacked that early in the game.”

Steve Hare
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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