By Ryan Buck
A week after falling to rival Canfield, the Boardman 9-10 baseball team will have its chance at redemption.
Boardman, thanks to 10 runs in the first three innings and a strong starting pitching performance from Luke Ryan, advanced to the Little League District 2 championship game with an 11-5 win over South Range on Saturday at Fields of Dreams.
Boardman scored two runs in the first inning, added another in the second and took an insurmountable 10-0 lead in the third after plating seven runs in the third.
“The guys came out and hit the ball,” said Boardman coach John Ryan. “They weren’t intimidated and they played like they know how.”
The 10 runs came on six hits and aggressive baserunning set the tone early.
“They came out with a lot of confidence and they really stroked the ball,” Ryan said.
Boardman’s first three hitters reached base in the first, leading to consecutive singles and runs by Sean O’Horo and Dean Boyd. Jac Cordon raced home on a passed ball in the third for a 3-0 lead.
In the third, O’Horo delivered the game’s biggest hit.
After watching the latter half of his team’s order push three more runs across the plate, O’Horo drove a two-out, two-on fastball off the top of the left center-field fence for a 9-0 advantage.
“Especially O’Horo putting it over the fence,” Ryan said of the hit that cleared the 210-foot distance from home plate. “For a 10 year-old to hit a home run, that was big.”
Boyd later doubled and scored on another passed ball.
Luke Ryan threw 31/3 scoreless innings and never allowed a runner past second base.
South Range coach Scott Deal and his staff did their best to manage the all-important pitching rotations, which prove so vital in Little League tournaments which strictly enforce pitch counts and rest for young arms.
“We probably kind of looked ahead a little bit,” Deal said, “thinking we could use our other pitchers and get through this game, but unfortunately we can’t have passed balls and a couple came from throwing it around. You can’t do that against a good team.”
South Range — which matched Boardman with eight hits but stranded as many runners — scored twice in the bottom of the fourth and clawed back to 10-5 with three more in the fifth.
Zach Pleska’s fifth inning hit scored two runs and Braydon Deal tripled, scoring Pleska to bring the score to 10-5.
Aidan Miller and Carter Mraz closed the last two innings for Boardman, which will meet unbeaten Canfield today at Fields of Dreams.
Canfield bested Boardman, 2-0, in both teams’ tournament opener.
“We’ll come out tomorrow and be ready to battle,” said John Ryan, whose team will have to beat Canfield twice in two days to claim a district championship.
In the 9-10 softball tournament, Poland shut out Austintown, 10-0, to advance to a semifinal contest with Boardman today.