By doug chapin
It was difficult to tell in Wednesday’s Division IV baseball district semifinal at Cene Park which team was the top seed and two-time defending district champions.
In fact, it was difficult to believe that the two teams on the field came in with a combined record of 34-14.
“There are no style points this time of year but we sure as heck hope to play a lot better than that,” Springfield coach Matt Weymer said of his team’s sloppy 11-8 win over Lowellville. “We made a lot of mistakes early, then we got out to the lead and we still made mistakes.
“You won’t win a lot of baseball games with six errors so hopefully we go home tonight and consider ourselves very lucky and show up tomorrow and play a heck of a lot better. If we don’t, we won’t be playing baseball anymore.”
Springfield (17-7) will play McDonald at 6 tonight at Cene Park for the district title. The Tigers have won four district championships in the past five seasons, including state runner-up finishes in 2011 and 2009.
“They say success breeds success and that’s what we count on,” Springfield senior second baseman Eoghan Bees said. “We count on our upperclassmen, be it Cody Pitzo, who’s started for four years or JoJo Caraballo, who started last year and was on the team that made the regional run.
“It’s people that know how to win. People who are on successful summer league teams like Hunter Snyder, like Cody Pitzo. It’s just a winning mentality.”
That winning mentality asserted itself for the Tigers in the bottom of the fifth after the teams stumbled and bumbled their way to a 4-4 tie at that point. There were a total of eight errors in the game (six by Springfield), 13 walks, five wild pitches, a hit batter and a balk.
With two outs and just one runner to start the fifth, Springfield put together a seven-run rally. The go-ahead run scored on a wild pitch by Lowellville starter Joe Smith, then Jo Jo Carabello delivered a two-run single, Bees and Pitzo provided run-scoring doubles and Joey Wrask capped the inning with a two-run single.
Relief pitcher James Hillyer, who got out of a jam in the top of the fifth with two runners on and a run already in, struck out the side in the sixth immediately after Springfield’s scoring outburst.
“James has done a nice job all year coming out of the bullpen just like that. In a spot, over a couple of innings he’s very effective,” Weymer said. “He has that mentality and he throws hard so he just pounds the zone and hopes that we catch it behind him. He did a great job and stepped up in the spot.”
“I kind of just come in and try to close out the inning and focus on not letting any runs get in,” Hillyer said of his role.
Lowellville (18-8) rallied for four runs in the final inning and the game ended with the bases loaded.
“The one thing we talked about was not beating ourselves. Coming into a game like this against a two-time defending district champion you can’t make mistakes,” Lowellville coach Benji Santiago said. “But we also thought we could capitalize on some of the mistakes they made. They are a tough team, hats off to them. They took care of business, that’s why they’re the champs.
“It was a good learning lesson for us. An 18-win season, I couldn’t ask for more from my seniors, a great group of guys.”
“We didn’t overlook Lowellville at all. We came in knowing that they have a good team,” Bees said. “We just had a poor effort tonight, it just wasn’t a good game out of us. That happens and we’re lucky to get away with it. We’re lucky we hit the ball really well because defensively we were horrible today. Hands down, that’s the worst we’ve played all year.”
Bees finished with two doubles and a single and drove in two runs and Ryan Kohler had a triple, two singles and two RBIs.