Girard will play for a district title after upending top-seeded Springfield.
By BILL SULLIVAN
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
STRUTHERS -- Give Girard High senior pitcher Mike Pearson a small lead and he's almost unbeatable; provide him with a 5-0 margin by the second inning and the slender left-hander seems unhittable.
Top-seeded Springfield (20-4) found that out Monday at Cene Park, when Pearson crafted a three-hitter to beat the Tigers 8-0 in a Division III district baseball tournament semifinal.
Girard (18-6) will meet Ursuline tonight at Cene Park at 6:30 in the championship game.
Stepping up: In three tournament appearances, Pearson (7-3) has allowed two runs in 21 innings.
Jason Collins, who finished with a single, two doubles, three RBIs and two runs scored, helped the Indians take a 3-0 lead in the first inning.
"I feel good about what I did," Collins said. "But it was also the other teammates who got on base to let me get that hit to get them in and for us to go ahead."
With two outs and a runner on first, Collins hit a wind-blown double to score one run. After a couple of walks loaded the bases, Elliott Steverson doubled over third base to make it 3-0.
"We've been playing that well for quite a while -- two, three good weeks," Girard coach Marty Kanetsky said.
"Defensively, I'm thinking we're as sound as anybody I've seen all year. Pitching, Michael keeps us in every game."
Tiger tamer: Working with the lead, Pearson mixed his pitches well to keep the hard-hitting Tigers in check. His curveball was quite effective.
"We lost the first three games this year, but after that we've been on a tear," Pearson said. "They hit the ball solid, but we made a lot of good plays."
Girard used a hit batter, two walks, two throwing errors and a single to score two more runs in the second.
"It's just a matter of coming out and fielding the ball and throwing the ball," Springfield coach Cory Gregorino said.
"We didn't do that well in the first two innings. It's disappointing because we didn't come out and play like we can, like we're capable of."
Pearson gave up a triple on his first pitch but was still throwing a one-hitter, two outs into the fifth inning.
"Their guy pitched a heck of a game," Gregorino said. "He didn't walk guys, he kept us off the bases.
"We get down 5-0 and it's tough to run or bunt or do anything. It kind of tied our hands a little bit."
Pearson allowed two infield singles late in the game, and Bob Zitkovic of Springfield was stranded on third base three times.
"He's deceptive," Kanetsky said of Pearson. "He can throw the heat when he has to."
Strategy: Every move Kanetsky made worked. He substituted for an outfielder early on and the replacement -- sophomore Dustin Helle -- came up with a diving catch to end the third inning.
Girard center fielder Mike Williams singled for the second time to start the seventh and scored his third run on a Collins double.
Steverson doubled for the second time to score Pearson, who had walked.
"I figured if we came out here and played like we could play, I think we'd do good against any team," Steverson said.