Astro Falcons pitcher sparkles in victory
over Kuboff & Associates in Class B playoffs
By ryan buck
Behind a complete-game, three-hit performance from pitcher Zach Spangler, the Astro Falcons took Game 1 of a best-of-three playoff series with a 7-2 win over Kuboff & Associates Wednesday evening in the Youngstown Class B playoffs at Cene Park.
The 6-foot-4 right-hander from Zelienople, Pa., struck out five and walked only one batter as he quieted the Kuboff bats for most of the evening.
“I felt pretty comfortable tonight,” said Spangler, a Kent State recruit. “My main goal was just to go out there and throw strikes and keep the fastball on the corners, not down the middle. I thought I did a pretty good job of that today.”
The Astro Falcons’ bats gave Spangler all the support he needed.
Bubba Wells, of West Branch, and Brendan Cox, a Warren JFK graduate, led off the bottom of the first inning with a single and a walk, respectively, against Kuboff starting pitcher Sam Donko.
After Wells advanced and scored on a fielding error at first base, Astro Falcons catcher Nick Andrews’ single sent Cox home to give his team a 2-0 lead. Chris Wastchak scored on a sacrifice fly by Keyshawn D’Orso to make it 3-0.
“We started off on the right foot and if you give Zach three runs, it’s usually enough,” said Astro Falcons manager Andy Timko.
Cox then doubled and scored in the second before Adam Becker singled and scored in the fourth to give Spangler a five-run cushion.
“It’s a lot easier to pitch when you have a nice lead,” Spangler said. “They’ve got some really good hitters. I just went out there with the mindset of painting the corners and mixing speeds.”
Spangler retired seven consecutive Kuboff hitters through the middle innings.
“He was pitching behind on several batters, but his stuff’s good enough that he can come back with a lot of pitches,” Timko said. “His fastball was coming and he could still get it by you, the changeup was working and he kept it low.”
Kuboff finally got to him in the fifth.
Tyler Wansack’s double to the left-field corner scored Christian Porterfield and Joel Hake to cut Kuboff’s deficit to three.
The Astro Falcons promptly responded with two of their own in the bottom of the inning. Andrews doubled and scored on D’Orso’s bloop single to right field. Three batters later D’Orso came around to score on a bases loadedwalk for a 7-2 lead.
Donko, a standout during Ursuline High’s recent run of success, was challenged all night by the Astro Falcons’ timely hitting and patience at the plate.
“Astros are a really good hitting team,” Donko said. “I thought I was making good pitches. They just made good plays. I had Bubba 0-2, 1-2 a couple of times and he lunges and gets some bloop hits. We really can’t protect that kind of stuff.”
Donko’s counterpart, Spangler, has developed a devastating three-pitch arsenal. He has introduced a looping curve ball at opportune times.
“My coaches just taught me a new grip on the curve ball the other day,” Spangler said. “That’s really starting to come along.”