A trip to the Division III district title game seemed far-fetched for Garfield coach Beau Norton a few weeks ago.
Nowadays, it's a reality. The G-Men knocked off top-seeded Gilmour Academy, 7-6, in a district semifinal at Euclid High School. Garfield, a No. 3 seed, advanced to tonight's district championship against Wickliffe (14-13).
It was the fifth straight victory for Garfield (15-13), which was on a downward spiral before the streak, losing seven in a row.
"There were times where we definitely didn't show the character and ability to come back from failure to make this kind of run," Norton said. "We had some tough losses in the league. I think the guys just took it to heart. There were some one-run games where we just didn't make plays. We've really grown. Some of the games we didn't come through, the guys learned from it. Three weeks ago, we don't win a game like today. The wheels would've come off."
They nearly did.
Gilmour loaded the bases with one out in the bottom of the seventh, trailing 7-3. The Lancers (17-4) scored a run on an RBI single by No. 3 hitter Ethan Pawlak. Garfield starting pitcher Tim Schwan then struck out clean-up batter Peter Dolan before allowing a two-run bloop single that cut the lead to 7-6. Schwan earned his 11th strikeout of the game on three pitches to end the rally and send the G-Men to their first district title game since 2009.
Schwan walked one and allowed four unearned runs over seven innings as he improved to 8-5. Chase Chapman powered Garfield's offense with two hits and three RBIs. He hit a two-run single to spark a four-run rally in the third inning and smashed a solo home run, his first of the year, to left-center field in the fourth.
In a Division II district final, Gino DiVincenzo tossed a 3-hitter for Cardinal Mooney in a 12-0, five-inning win over Struthers. Ryan Megyesi knocked a double and triple for the Cardinals.