Ursuline advances in Div. III
By John Bassetti
Sam Donko seemed to have a hand in every phase of the game that put Ursuline in the driver’s seat from the outset of a 6-0 Division III sectional baseball tournament win over Columbiana.
From fielding two ground balls and making the assist on two outs in the first inning to snagging a line drive for the game’s next-to-last out in the seventh, Donko dominated in the game at Cene Park on Wednesday.
But Donko downplayed his role — and that of his curveball — and, instead, passed the credit to his team.
“My curve kept them off balance,” he said. “I didn’t have all my stuff but I located all right and the curveball kept them off balance. I got them to ground out and the defense made plays.”
The junior even had a hand in field maintenance when Ursuline players helped the grounds crew pull tarp over vital areas during a heavy rain that delayed the game 11/2 hours.
Donko and Ryan Strollo had two singles, while Paul Pegues, Anthony Rohan and Michael Montalbano had a single apiece for the Irish (15-5), who return for a district game on Monday.
Donko held Columbiana (8-19) to four hits, but the Clippers were also strapped with five errors.
“Right out of the gate, we gave them two runs in the first inning,” Columbiana coach Scott Knox said.
Pegues, Ursuline’s leadoff hitter, got the game’s first hit, then stole second and tagged up to reach third on Donko’s flyout.
After Mike Montalbano walked, Strollo’s hit brought Pegues home and Montalbano scored on an error.
Strollo made it 3-0 when he stole home during an attempted pickoff.
The rain delay came in the fourth.
“It’s a 0-0 game because all three runs were unearned,” Knox said. “So, it was self-induced. Realistically, of the six runs, two were earned, so it’s a 2-0 game against the No. 1 seed.
“Again, it comes back to pitching and defense. [Hank] Schlueter did a great job and kept us in there. He did what he was supposed to do. We just didn’t handle some baseballs early in the game and they should have been outs and his pitch count would have been down even more.”
Ursuline coach Sean Durkin was complimentary of Schlueter’s performance, but he gave credit to his Irish, too.
“We didn’t expect to knock him [Schlueter] all around by any stretch, but we had a couple timely hits with some guys in scoring position and that’s tournament baseball. You’ve got to get hits at the right time and we did that today.
“Defensively, I thought we played very well and made a couple really nice plays and every routine play.