Sunday, January 29, 2023

Kirtland slugs way to district tournament

KIRTLAND—Led by Mike Zeuli, who was 4-for-4, Kirtland pounded out a dozen hits in beating visiting Beachwood in a Division III sectional championship game on Thursday, 10-0.

With the win, the Hornets return to the Lakewood District tournament for the second straight season and the fourth time in the last five years.

“We did everything right,” said Kirtland coach Luke Smrdel. “We talked about it all year and we keep working on it and everything worked right for us today.”

While Zeuli ignited the Kirtland offense, Tyler McCrory did his part on the hill keeping the Bison hitters in check.

McCrory allowed seven hits and struck out 10 Beachwood batters in a six-inning complete game victory. He also doubled home the winning run in the bottom of the sixth.

“Tyler pitched a great game, we got some clutch hits and the guys put the ball in play for the most part,” Smrdel said. “They did it all today. I’m very proud of them.”

Kirtland scored two runs in the bottom of the first inning when leadoff hitter Joey Torok was hit by a pitch and stole second. He scored on Zeuli’s double and Ryan Lipps followed that with an RBI single. Vinny Liuzzo was hit by a pitch and scored on an error in the bottom of the second to make it 3-0.

The Hornets added four runs in the bottom of the fourth on hits by Torok, Seann McGill, Zeuli, Luke Potosky and Mike Alfieri.

McCrory walked and McGill singled in the bottom of the fifth and both scored on Zeuli’s second double of the game and Liuzzo’s two-out single in the sixth set the table for McCrory’s walk-off double.

Zeuli has heated up at the right time.

Since May 1, he is batting .684 (13-for-19) with four doubles, three triples and 11 runs batted in and is now hitting .561 on the year.

“It’s that time of year,” Smrdel said of Zeuli. “He’s hot right now and hopefully he keeps rolling with it. He’s special.”

McCrory will likely get the start when the second-seeded Hornets play No. 6 Wellington at Lakewood High School on May 16 and Smrdel is counting on him to get ahead of batters in the district semifinals as he threw just nine first-pitch strikes to the 24 Beachwood batters he faced.

“He needs to make sure he gets ahead of batters, that’s one thing for sure we’ve got to improve on, but ultimately he’s our guy,” Smrdel said. “He gets the job done and we’re going to give him the ball. We have full confidence in him and he usually comes through. Hopefully, it continues.”

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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