The defending champs beat Rondinelli 8-1 and 11-9 in the best-of-five series.
By JOHN BASSETTI
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
STRUTHERS — Rondinelli coach Tony Gorvet isn’t conceding the Class B League’s best-of-five series championship series and R&J Trucking coach Andy Timko says it’s long from over.
Those two assessments came following R&J’s doubleheader win Tuesday night at Cene Park.
Defending champion R&J won the first game, 8-1, and survived the second, 11-9.
In second game, Rondinelli chipped away at the lead after falling behind early, 9-0.
Division winners in final
For the first time since the league established divisions, the championship series’ participants are division winners: Rondinelli (Cene Division) and R&J (Goldstone Division).
“They have a good-hitting team,” Timko said after Rondinelli battled back in the nightcap.
Lou Coppola went five innings for R&J, but gave up 11 hits. The University of Cincinnati-bound Poland High product was the winner.
Timko said Coppola threw a few innings on Saturday and may not have been rested sufficiently. That’s when Jared Barker relieved Coppola.
“We thought we’d give them a different look,” Timko said of Barker’s insertion.
Pitzulo has big night
Matt Pitzulo had three hits in the second game and five for the night for R&J. Pitzulo also had three RBIs in the nightcap. Joe Iacobucci had two hits, including an inside-the-park home run in the first inning.
Gorvet thought the second game would be a repeat of the first, but Rondinelli finally got its offense in gear in the fourth and fifth innings when it scored six runs.
“We didn’t win 22 games for nothing,” Timko said of his team’s record to date. “If we come out tonight and hit, this series will go the distance.”
The teams are scheduled for another doubleheader tonight at 6 and 8, but another R&J win will end it.
In the opener, Dom Silvestri pitched a seven-inning, three-hitter to get the series off on a good foot.
Silvestri, a recent Boardman High graduate, had a no-hitter through five innings until Phil Double doubled to lead off the sixth for Rondinelli.
The 6-5, 200-pound Silvestri (7-0) only had two strikeouts, but made the most of this pitches by varying the counts and cadences.
“Credit the strategy to my pitching coach Brian Kubala,” Silvestri said of keeping Rondinelli batters off balance.
R&J scored in the first inning when Rondinelli starter Cory Nesbitt loaded the bases with no outs. That’s when Joe Iacobucci walked to score John Madeline for a 1-0 lead.
Of R&J’s eight hits in the first game, Iacobucci had two, including a triple, for three RBIs. Pitzulo belted a triple and double, while Mike Popio, in a pinch-hitter role in the third inning, scored Scooter Hargate and Josh Gardner when his hit fell in front of center fielder Chuck Olesky.
“Sometimes you just have to take your hat off to the other team; they played a good game,” Rondinelli coach Tony Gorvet said.
Rondinelli finished with four errors, while R&J committed three.
Chuck Olesky and Andy Dobson had the only other hits off of Silvestri, who is 2-0 against Rondinelli this season. His other victory was not a seven-inning stint. Silvestri, who is headed to Butler University in Indianapolis, also had one no-decision against Rondinelli.
Silvestri said he played first base but did not pitch for his high school team.