Jeff Johnston's pitching and Jimmy Sanders' hitting were keys for the Raiders.
By BOTH ROTH
STRUTHERS -- South Range baseball coach Dan Szolek's decision to send Jeff Johnston to the mound in Tuesday's Division IV district semifinal at Cene Park paid off.
The 6-1, 195-pound junior improved to 7-2 by tossing a two-hitter as the Raiders (18-6) topped Southington, 9-2.
It's the first time that South Range has reached a baseball district final.
Johnston handcuffed the Wildcats (12-10) with an infield single in the third inning and a triple by Kevin Swiger in the sixth.
Right choice: "We are excited, but we can't be too excited yet," Szolek said. "I was hesitant about who to pitch, decided on Johnston because of his fastball and he came through for us."
The Raiders' offense was keyed by No. 2 hitter Jimmy Sanders who went 4-for-4 and was on base five times.
He had a double and three singles and walked once, scored twice and drove in three runs. His two-run single was part of a three-run seventh inning.
The Raiders scored at least one run in each of the last five innings and finished the contest with 11 hits.
"All season, a different guy has been coming through for us," Szolek said. "Today, it was Sanders, one of our hardest workers."
Sanders, a junior, said, "I was really seeing the ball [well], I had good swings and every ball I hit was a line drive."
Johnston, who was 2-for-4 with two RBIs, said, "On both hits, I was behind on the count and I got good fastballs to swing at.
"Pitching, I was putting the ball over and they were making contact, but our fielders were making good plays all day."
Szolek said about today's opponent Windham: "They are from Portage County and I don't know much about them, but we did have people looking at them and I know they have good hitters and team speed."
Wildcat comments: Tim Cope, Southington's coach, said, "We are a young team. We had to play through growing pains and to get here was an accomplishment for us.
"We knew coming in South Range was a good team and to win we had to play our best ball. Johnston did an excellent job of keeping our hitters off balance and we just couldn't get anything going."