By TOM WILLIAMS
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
STRUTHERS -- The third time proved to be doubly charming for the Poland High baseball team.
After finishing as Division II district runner-up the past two years and losing twice to Metro Athletic Conference rival Canfield this season, the second-seeded Bulldogs (21-4) snapped both streaks Saturday with a 9-3 victory over the top-seeded Cardinals.
"Our team has played in this game the past three years and it's the first time we've been in the winning dugout," Poland coach Steve Rohan said of the district crown won at Cene Park. "It's a good feeling."
Friday at 2 p.m. at Cene Park, Poland (21-4) will play Tallmadge in a regional semifinal.
Sparking the Bulldogs offense were Sean Clayton with four hits and two runs scored, David Koval with two hits and three RBIs, Jon Habuda with two RBIs and Anthony Fuller with a double, single and two runs scored.
Poland starter David Yost baffled Canfield with a very effective curveball, limiting the Cards (22-7) to five hits and three runs in the 6 1/3 innings he pitched.
"He did a great job getting his curveball over -- I think he threw about 100 of them," Canfield coach Tony Ross said.
Rohan said Yost exceeded his expectations for round three.
"He pitched a great game," Rohan said. "He had a three-hitter going into the seventh inning against a Canfield team that has played everyone -- Boardman, Tallmadge. They played all those powers in Columbus -- that's a good team."
Yost, a sophomore, said he didn't "feel that much pressure. We've been in big games all year and we tend to come through when we're under pressure."
Asked if this was the best he'd pitched this spring, Yost replied, "Probably. My curve was working pretty [well] and I wasn't leaving anything up."
Fuller doubled and scored on Koval's sacrifice fly in the third inning. The Cardinals tied the game on Tom Banna's two-out RBI single that brought in Brent Parks.
The Bulldogs shelled Canfield starter Kevin Prus in the fourth inning, turning five singles and two walks into six runs.
With one out, Clayton singled. After Tom Peters walked, Brandon Hardin and Fuller singled. Later, Koval and Habuda contributed two-out RBI singles.
"Everything just clicked for us," Clayton said.
Ahead 7-1, Yost shut out the Cards over the next three innings before tiring in the seventh when Canfield scored twice.
"It's so much easier pitching with a big lead like that because you don't have to worry about making mistakes," Yost said. "They could hit five [solo] home runs and we'd still be beating them."
In the seventh inning, Josh Dripps singled, Parks walked and Dan Leonard singled to chase Yost.
Reliever Cole Budinsky retired Mike Turjanica on a groundout that scored Dripps. After Banna singled to bring home Parks, Dave Miller lined the ball hard off Budinsky's leg. The ball caromed to Clayton and the third baseman fired to first baseman John Koval to end the game.
"Unfortunately for us, we didn't hit as well as we have all year," Canfield coach Tony Ross said. "[The Bulldogs] came up with big hits in crucial situations. They played very well; we didn't."