By greg gulas
There’s something about 3-2, nine-inning wins in the postseason that are working for the Ursuline baseball team.
Nine days after beating Girard in the district championship game, the Fighting Irish (20-5) eliminated Keystone on Thursday by the same score, at Carl “Ducky” Schroeder Field, advancing to today’s regional final against Grand Valley (29-1).
Grand Valley (29-1), ranked No. 2 in the state coaches poll, defeated Orrville 7-4 in Thursday’s first semifinal.
Ursuline’s Sam Donko struck out 13 batters and scattered four hits, while Ryan Strollo had two of the Fighting Irish’s five hits.
Brandyn Sittinger struck out 13 in eight innings and Marcus Gunter’s solo home run tied the score at 2 in the eighth inning for Keystone (21-9).
“These were two great, not good, pitchers on the mound today and neither deserved to lose,” said Ursuline coach Sean Durkin. “We said all week that with Sam and Brandyn opposing each other, it was going to be a 2-1 or 3-2 game.”
“Sam was a bulldog out there for us once again. He has a tremendous heart and I kiddingly told him that I was thinking of taking him out after the eighth inning. I know he would have fought me on that decision,” Durkin added.
Donko, who struck out nine of the last 17 batters he faced, allowed just one run and three baserunners over the last five innings.
“This was without a doubt the best pitching match-up I’ve had all season long. He [Sittinger] is definitely a pitcher on top of his game and it was fun to pitch against him,” Donko said.
“I started out relying on my slider and curveball, then for about a three-inning stretch I relied on my fastball.”
Keystone got on the board in the second inning when Caleb Schillace doubled to lead off, advanced to third on an error and then scored on consecutive errors.
Ursuline tied the score in the third inning when Paul Pegues reached on an error, stole second and scored on Anthony Rohan’s single.
Rohan pulled a hamstring running to first base and was then replaced in center field by Vinnie Boerio.
Neither team could score through the seventh inning, although Donko worked out of a bases-loaded jam with one out in the third.
A triple by Strollo scored Harrison Finelli in the eighth to give Ursuline a 2-1 lead.
Gunter unloaded his home run to lead off the bottom of the eighth to tie the score at 2-2.
Sittinger was replaced by Caleb Schillace in the ninth inning and with one out, Pegues was hit by a pitch.
He was sacrificed to second by Boerio and scored thanks to two passed balls.