Niles' P.J. Rishel had a three-hitter in the 3-0 loss.
By BILL SULLIVAN
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
STRUTHERS -- When Major League Baseball expanded the strike zone this season, one of the goals of the rule change was to speed up the games.
If baseball officials studied the tapes of Struthers High's 3-0 win over Niles in the Division II district semifinal Thursday at Cene Park, a better way to keep the games moving along would become apparent.
Pitchers Pat Watt of Struthers and P.J. Rishel of Niles threw strike after strike, combining to permit just four hits, as the teams played a seven-inning game in just 90 minutes.
Rishel (3-3), the hard-luck loser who allowed just three hits, and Watt (8-1), who authored a one-hitter, were a study in pitching consistency, yielding little to two good-hitting teams.
Battle today: Struthers (16-5) will meet Poland today at Cene Park at 5:30 for the district title.
"He's back to form right now," Struthers coach Bill Cammack said of Watt, a University of Akron recruit.
"He's pitching real well for us and we're really happy with him."
Watt threw a no-hitter into the fifth inning, allowing just a two-out walk in the second.
Junior Joe Toth got the only hit for Niles (12-12) in the fifth and advanced to third on an infield error and a fielder's choice.
Toth was thrown out easily at the plate as Watt faced just 24 batters, three over the minimum.
"I was around the plate, hitting spots," Watt said. "I felt like I got the job done good enough.
"My defense made some plays, I made some pitches and it just all turned out good."
Rishel was up to the task of matching Watt's dominance. Aided by a nifty double-play, all Struthers had to show for its first 12 hitters was a dozen outs.
Finally, the Wildcats broke through in the fifth by sending nine batters to the plate and scoring all three runs.
The inning was highlighted by two Wildcats hit by pitches, a double by Matt Bradley, followed by a ringing two-run double to left by senior Chuck Cormell.
Anxious for runs: "We hadn't been hitting the ball all day," Cormell said. "I got my chance and I said whatever chances I get I'm going to do all I can.
"I was looking for something good enough I could drive so I could get both the runs in. I just jumped on it."
In the sectional final last week, Cormell had a two-run single in the seventh inning to help Struthers beat Hubbard, 3-1.
"He's been clutch all year," Watt said of Cormell. "In that position that was the kid I wanted at the plate in the game.
"That was probably the one mistake Rishel made all day. He pitched a great game. I was batting and he looked as sharp as I've seen him in three games."
Cormell will study accounting and play baseball at Thiel College in the fall.
"They are a great-hitting team," Cammack said of Niles.
"Our kids played great defense. We hit the ball when we needed to and Pat pitched an excellent game."