By Steve Wilaj
The fourth seed.
It’s not a position Ursuline High — with all of its recent success — is used to being in. However, that’s exactly where the Fighting Irish sit in the Division III district tournament.
And as head coach Sean Durkin points out, it’s for good reason.
“There are three other really good teams in this,” he said. “Springfield’s had as much recent success as we’ve had, South Range won their league and Girard’s had a heck of a year as well.”
In turn, Durkin admits his team is playing with an unfamiliar label: underdog.
“I definitely think we are,” he said. “But we’ve been around a little bit before and we’ll take our chances.”
The Irish began their journey on Friday, as they defeated Lisbon, 10-0, at Cene Park.
Dion Felger struck out 10 batters and the Ursuline offense pounded out 11 hits as the Irish run-ruled the Blue Devils in five innings. They advance to meet Springfield on Wednesday in the district semifinal.
“Hopefully we can get hot at the right time of the year,” Durkin said. “This is when we want to be playing well, so hopefully we can carry over from today’s performance.
“[Springfield] is a matchup we look forward to. I wish they were still in Division IV so we didn’t have to play them, but it should be a real good game.”
Ursuline (8-10) scored three runs in the first and third innings against Lisbon to take control early.
Felger notched an RBI single, Michael Montalbano hit an RBI double and Tannor Berry added a sacrifice fly in the first inning off of Lisbon starter Jagr Groubert. Gianni Quattro then added a run-scoring single in the third before Zach Patton hit a sac fly.
“As a pitcher it was great to get that early lead and have something to work with,” Felger said.
But he didn’t need much support. Felger (4-2) allowed just two hits and one walk in five innings as he struck out 10.
“Once I found my curveball then I had all my pitches under control and that’s what led me to my success,” he said.
Felger also paced the Irish with three hits. Durkin said the offensive outburst — which included an RBI triple by Berry, an RBI single by Drew Potesta and a walk-off two-RBI single by Joel Hake — was a pleasant surprise.
“That’s kind of been our Achilles heel,” he said. “We’ve had stretches where we haven’t really swung it real well. But today we looked good.
“We haven’t been blown out all season; we’ve just struggled to score runs sometimes. So we’ve been in a lot of close games and hopefully that’s an advantage for us.”
Two of those close games include losses to Springfield. The Tigers defeated the Irish 4-2 and 5-4 in those contests.
“We feel very confident about the matchup,” Felger said. “Two close games and the one time we lost the lead in the sixth inning. So if we play our game, we should come out with a W.”
Even carrying the underdog label, the Irish are plenty confident.
“We still feel like we’re the best team here,” Felger said.