Thursday, September 16, 2021

Kirtland holds off Cardinal

A whacky double play highlighted an even zanier 5-4 win for Kirtland’s baseball team over host Cardinal on Monday.

The game was scheduled to begin at Cardinal on April 27. Unplayable field conditions led to the game being moved to Perry but a storm moved in and the game was halted with the Hornets leading 1-0 in the top of the third. It was rescheduled for May 3 but again was postponed due to rain.

Kirtland’s 1-3-2-8-5 double play in the bottom of the fourth inning helped the Hornets maintain a 2-1 lead.

“It was a weird combination,” said Kirtland coach Luke Smrdel. “There was a pickoff move at first with Vinny Liuzzo throwing to Seann McGill, who ran at the runner because there were guys on first and third. The runner at third broke for home so he threw it home and Mike Zeuli tagged him out.”

Zeuli then saw the runner at second stray from the bag and threw to Joey Torok, who was covering the base. The ball bounced off Torok’s glove and was fielded by center fielder Victor Kissinger.

“Kissinger threw it to third base and Ryan Lipps tagged out the runner for the double play,” Smrdel said. “That’s kind of an overview of how this game went.”

Lipps doubled and scored on an error in the second and the Hornets went up 2-0 in the third on a single by Torok, who stole second and third then scored on Zeuli’s sacrifice fly.

Jacob Gotham doubled in the bottom of the fourth and scored on an error to pull Cardinal to within 2-1. The Huskies added another in the fifth when Cam Klepper singled, stole second and scored on an error to tie it.

Kirtland took a 3-2 lead in the sixth on singles from McGill and Luke Potosky but the Huskies responded with a run over their own when Gotham singled and scored on Eric Proch’s single.

Joey Mongelluzzi drew a leadoff walk to start the Kirtland seventh. Torok and Zeuli also singled in the inning to give the Hornets a 5-3 lead.

Klepper reached on an error and scored on a ground out to cut the Kirtland lead to just one run but Vinny Liuzzo pitched his way out of a jam to close out the win.

“We are learning the mindset of survive and advance heading into the tournament. We had a lot of miscues but we battled through them and had some clutch timely hitting,” Smrdel said. “Zeuli and Potosky had some clutch hits and Vince Liuzzo did a great job on the mound for us. He worked through a lot of tough situations that we put ourselves in.”

Liuzzo allowed four runs on six hits and struck out three in five innings of work to pick up the pitching victory.

“I was feeling fantastic on the mound today,” Liuzzo said. “My fastball was really working well. I was able to hit the corners with it and paint the zone. When I pitch, I focus because I have been in so many situations like this before and block out all the noise and just get into my rhythm and throw strikes consistently like I always do.”

Torok finished 3-for-3 with two runs scored and an RBI. He also stole four bases pushing his season total to 40.

Matt Carney, Gotham and Proch each finished with two hits for the Huskies.

“We left a lot of runners on base,” said Cardinal coach Seth Klepper. “We lacked key hits in key moments during the game. I was happy with our attitudes; the boys never felt that we were out of the game, which is what we as a coaching staff have been preaching all year.”

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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