End of the road
STRUTHERS – The air was raw, the wind was nasty and there wasn’t a ray of sunshine in sight.
Some in the small gathering of fans at Cene Park huddled under blankets and were undoubtedly layered in clothing.
Sounds like a normal setting for a late November playoff football game. Instead it was the scene for Friday’s Division IV district baseball final between the Springfield Tigers and the McDonald Blue Devils.
It’s safe to say that the Tigers literally weathered the elements in advancing with a 10-6 win in a game that had seven errors, 12 wild pitches and two passed balls.
The second-seeded Devils were never able to get comfortable. Starting pitcher Mike Raschilla struggled with control in four innings of work. He needed flawless defensive play behind him, but instead the Devils committed four errors that resulted in four unearned runs.
“We were here way earlier than we needed to be today,” Devils coach Matt Vukovic said. “We had a lot of time to sit around and tighten up. Hitting-wise it makes it a lot tougher to swing a bat.”
The top-seeded Tigers (18-7) scored four runs in both the second and third innings and added one run in both the fourth and fifth. Three of the runs in the second scored on wild pitches and another scored as a result of an error.
The Tigers’ first RBI came in the third when Hunter Snyder scored on a ground out by Dom Gentsy. Dalton Donachie and Brandon Chamberlain followed with singles and both scored on an error on a ground ball by Joe Caraballo. Caraballo stole second and scored on another error.
The run support was plenty of help for Donachie, who allowed three hits in going the distance. Donachie also struggled with his control in walking seven, but he settled down after allowing two runs in the third and four unearned runs in the fourth.
Donachie had to pitch through some pain after having a foot caught in the dirt rounding first base in the bottom of the second. He limped off the field but was able to return to the mound in the top of the third after a lengthy bottom of the second.
“I thought I heard something pop,” Donachie said. “In a game like this you have to dig deep and work through the pain, and that’s what I did.”
A wild pitch by Donachie in the third scored Mike Soots with the Devils’ first run. Christian Rusinowski then reached safely after the ball escaped the grasp of the catcher following a strikeout with one out. He scored on a fielder’s choice off Tom Rebraca’s bat.
A fielding error allowed Matt Manna to reach safely leading off the fourth for McDonald. Donachie walked the next three batters to score Manna. Soots and Brian Kelzer, both of whom reached on walks, scored when a short fly ball by Mike Schuller dropped safely in right field after the infield-fly rule had been called.
Joey Wrask scored on a fielder’s choice for the Tigers in the fifth, and Caraballo scored on a single by Ryan Kohler in the sixth.
The Tigers, who play in the Copley regional semifinals Thursday at 5:30 p.m., have won three straight district titles.
“Baseball isn’t easy to play in high school, and I’m not an easy coach to play for,” Tigers coach Matt Weymer said. “They responded all year and always showed up to play.”
The Devils exited tournament play with a 20-5 record.
“I’m very pleased,” Vukovic said. “They came in every day. You gave them an option and they wanted to be there. That’s the reason for their success.”