By TIM CLEVELAND
With the postseason baseball tournaments about to begin next week, Austintown Fitch continued to roll right along, routing Warren JFK, 13-0, in five innings on a cold, gloomy Saturday at Eastwood Field.
The game’s only controversy was a disputed drive to center field in the fourth inning by Kennedy’s Alec Rossi that hit off a glove and fell in. The Eagles felt it was a double while the Falcons (18-2) believed an error should have been charged.
“We were waiting to see what [the scoreboard operators] were going to do up there,” Falcons coach Wally Ford said. “They never put a hit up, so we gave him an error. Our center fielder, it hit his glove. It was a well-hit ball, but he should’ve caught it.”
JFK coach Don Lee said, “That’s a base hit to center field, as far as I’m concerned. That ball was hit pretty well and he didn’t run it down.”
While the home team’s scorebook is considered official, it was still a dominating performance for Fitch senior right-hander Austin Cooper (5-1), who allowed only three baserunners with five strikeouts in a complete game.
“Pretty much everything was working really nice today,” Cooper said. “It’s one of those days you come out feeling good. Strike a couple guys out then put the ball in play for my defense.”
“He’s just been pitching real well lately,” said Ford. “His ERA is under zero point something. He’s only given up one run in the last 19 innings. He’s in a groove right now.
“He’s always around the plate, he throws strikes, he mixes it up a little bit. He’s doing a great job.”
After getting through the first two innings unscathed, the Eagles allowed the floodgates to open the next two frames. The Falcons scored four times in the third and nine more in the fourth as the Eagles allowed nine hits and committed six errors in the two innings.
Zarek Bell tripled and singled with three RBIs during that stretch, and reached on a walk in the second.
“We’re a little bit weak this year,” Lee said. “We stayed with them the first two innings. Fourth inning we gave them nine runs. We should’ve been out of the inning. That’s baseball. Kids make mistakes and there’s nothing we can do about it.”
Warren JFK fell to 6-13, an uncharacteristically mediocre showing for the program. Lee said bad play in the field has played a big role in the team’s sub-.500 season.
“Defensively, we’ve got to cut down on our errors,” he said. “That’s been a problem all year. We either start out bad and finish good, or start out good and finish bad. They’re physical errors. We don’t make too many mental mistakes. It’s just something you have to work on.”
Fitch begins tournament play Friday at home against either East or Ashtabula Lakeside in a Division I sectional final. Ford said the Falcons are peaking at the right time.
“We’re playing well,” he said. “Guys are playing with a lot of confidence. We’re hitting the ball, playing good defense, making the plays we should make. If you’re throwing strikes and making the plays on defense, you’ve got a good chance.”