Collins, clutch at-bats help Fitch beat Boardman in opener
By Ryan Buck
A three-run second inning and an efficient effort from starting pitcher Trent Collins paced Austintown Fitch to a 5-2 season-opening win over Boardman Wednesday night at Cene Park.
Phil Socha led the Falcons’ offensive attack with three hits and scored two runs. Even he was pleasantly surprised with his success in the opener.
“It was just a lot of fun to get back out here and get back with the team on the field,” said Socha, a senior first baseman. “I was just seeing the ball real well and it went from there.”
After Boardman starter Scott Lendak retired Zack Miller to begin the top half of the second inning, Socha reached on a single and advanced on an error before Luke Peterson followed with a single of his own.
Pat Gerberry’s fielder’s choice brought Socha home.
“Things kind of snowballed that inning,” said Boardman coach Joe Gabriel.
Two batters later, with two outs, Jarod Kapturansky singled in Peterson and Gerberry and Fitch had a 3-0 lead.
“We just started getting runners on base and were able to finish strong at-bats,” Socha said.
Fitch coach Wally Ford, in his 16th season at the school, couldn’t have asked for a better start from his team in its opener.
“That’s always nice,” Ford said, “especially the first game. Guys are going to be a little nerved up and you may jump out and get a few runs, but that makes everybody feel a little more comfortable, especially your pitcher.”
And the comfort zone was exactly what Collins found. The right-hander recorded only one strikeout — against the last batter he faced — but never allowed the Spartans (0-2) to string hits together.
Collins set down the top of Boardman’s lineup in order in the first, dusted off a lead-off single in the second to retire the side before escaping trouble in the third.
After allowing back-to-back singles to Eddie Crump and Phil Diianni and a walk to Evan Croutch to load the bases with two outs, Collins snared a comebacker up the middle from Lou Cardona and calmly flipped to Socha at first to end the inning.
“Trent was throwing a lot of strikes and keeping us off-balance,” Gabriel said. “We just really weren’t converting and doing what we were supposed to do.
“We just didn’t deliver.”
In the fourth inning, Fitch loaded the bases when Kapturansky forced a walk from Lendak to once again score Socha, who had singled to open the inning.
Nick Kubala came on in relief and walked in another run before helping Boardman get out of the inning.
Collins left the game after four innings with just five hits on his statline, but a confidence boost for his offense.
“When your guy’s throwing a lot of strikes, it’s nice that he gave us those opportunities,” Socha said.
Brian Fryda singled and scored off Gerberry in the fifth, but came back to end the inning on one of his two strikeouts.
In the seventh, Boardman threatened, bringing Lendak to the plate. Fitch turned to Scott Pierce, who promptly forced Lendak to pop out to second for out number two. Gino Beato walked to load the bases and Diianni came around to score Boardman’s second run on a passed ball.
“Unless you’ve got a really big lead, the game’s not over until you’ve got that last out,” Ford said.
Fitch’s precarious ways ended when Pierce threw out Mike Notar on a ground ball back to the mound.