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Kirila Ks 12 as Ursuline moves on to districts

Staff photo/Joel Whetzel. Ursuline's Andrew Kirila throws a pitch during Wednesday's game against Waterloo.

STRUTHERS — Andrew Kirila may need to add a few more Ks to his last name after his latest outing.

Ursuline’s ace was dominant from beginning to end Wednesday, as the junior struck out 12 batters over 6 2/3 innings of work in the Irish’s 8-4 victory over Waterloo to send UHS (15-8) to the district round of the postseason for the first time since 2019.

Kirila gave up four runs — just one earned — on three Viking (17-17) hits, four walks and four fielding errors.

“He really commanded his off-speed well today,” Ursuline coach Paul Kempe said of Kirila. “I think his fastball got better as the day went on, but his off-speed was on from the start. We couldn’t ask more from him. … He’s the guy. He’s been doing this all year, and we’re going to have to lean on him as we make this run, hopefully.”

Indeed, Kirila frequently used breaking balls and change-ups to keep Waterloo’s batters off balance. He struck out seven batters through the first four innings and didn’t allow a hit until one out was recorded in the sixth. The only earned run he surrendered came in that frame, as well.

“My off-speed was working great,” Kirila said. “I could throw it for a strike or a ball, and I was just controlling it and throwing it (to keep Waterloo) off balance. You know, throw a 1-2 curveball and then line them up with a fastball, and it just really worked.”

Kirila nearly recorded a complete game as he tallied two outs in the final inning, but a few errors in the field by the Irish defense forced him out of the game. Danny Smith slammed the door on Waterloo’s two-out rally to preserve Ursuline’s 8-4 victory.

While Kirila was firing all cylinders out of the gates, Ursuline’s offense needed a couple innings to rev up. The Irish went down in order in the first two innings before striking for two runs in the third. Marc Manning reached second on a fielding error to begin the run, and then Nick Bako reached on a bunt single to put runners on the corners.

Luca Ricchiuti took advantage of the opportunity, smoking a two-RBI double down the right field line to plate them and put UHS up 2-0. Ricchiuti doubled again in the sixth and eventually came around to score on an error, and plated a team-high two RBIs.

Ursuline extended its lead in the fifth. After loading the bases, sacrifice flies from Manning and Jack Ericson, as well as a walk from Jaxson Gruber, put the Irish up 5-0.

The UHS scoring finished in the sixth, as Ricchiuti doubled and scored on a fielding error on a pop-fly from Brady Shannon, and then Tom Groner scored Shannon on a sacrifice fly. Ericson tripled with two outs and then reached home safely on a passed ball to round things out.

Kirila said he felt the run support was going to come at some point.

“I fully trust my team. We’re going to get going sooner or later, and I knew if I just kept throwing my game, we’d get things going,” he said.

Kempe added, “I think as the game went on, we started putting the ball in play a little more, and we started to barrel up better. We did a great job of just getting quality outs with guys on those sac-flies. We left too many guys on base, which I don’t like that much, but at the end of the day, we had a job we came here to do in any way, and I’m glad we were able to do that.”

Ursuline now advances to the district semifinals, where the Irish await the winner of Middlefield Cardinal and LaBrae. Those teams were playing Wednesday before the game was suspended due to rain. They resume today.

“We feel great,” Kirila said. “(Wednesday was) a good win against a really good team, and we’re just taking it one game at a time then moving on to the next.”

jwhetzel@tribtoday.com

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