In complete command of Howland’s batters all afternoon, Aurora starting pitcher Carter Semancik hesitated to put a title on his role on the Greenmen pitching staff.
“I wouldn’t call me an ace, but I’m a good pitcher for our team,” the junior righty said.
He certainly looked the part in Monday’s Division I district semifinal at Bob Cene Park.
Semancik stymied the Tigers, giving up six hits over seven innings, and allowed just one run to cross the plate in Aurora’s 9-1 victory.
“He was our third or fourth [pitcher] to start the year and as the year went on he just threw strikes,” Aurora coach Tim Deering said. “You could see how he was down in the zone and just threw strikes today. I mean, we have a good defense, so that’s what we need out of our guys.”
Semancik struck out only one hitter, so the Greenmen’s defense was tested often. It seemed each grounder in the hole or fly ball headed for a gap was tracked down time and again.
“They made the routine [plays], but they also made the extraordinary ones,” Howland coach Sean Price said. “It robs hits away from you. Those are rally killers is what we call them.”
They may have been rally killers for Howland (15-9), but they were confidence boosters for the Aurora pitcher.
“It’s really nice to pitch with them behind you,” Semancik said. “It allows you to throw strikes and pound the strike zone.”
Semancik didn’t allow a runner to reach second base until the bottom of the fourth inning, when Vinnie Ruberto drew a one-out walk. The next batter, Kurt Kuszmaul, reached on a base hit, but was forced out at second on a Tyler Spain ground ball. With runners at the corners, Semancik made his lone mistake of the afternoon. He was called for a balk, allowing Ruberto to score.
“The kid threw well,” Price said. “We were trying to be patient, but we didn’t hit anything solid. When we did hit it solid they made diving catches, so ...”
The Greenmen (18-8), who will try attempt to defend their district title today against Nordonia, pushed all the right buttons. They were also aided by untimely Tigers errors, especially early in the game.
In the top of the first, leadoff hitter Kirk Janoch went from first to third on a Matt Carpenter base hit. Carpenter advanced to second on catcher’s indifference, which proved to be costly for the Tigers. On a tailor-made double-play ball, Howland was only able to record one out and Janoch scored easily.
That was a theme throughout the afternoon.
“We only hit about .260 on the year, so what you have to do is run the bases really well,” Deering said. “We have to attack, we have to go first to third, we have to takeoff on the ball in the dirt, we have to steal bags. Then we have to wait for our guys to come up and get a big hit.
“It’s happening now, and we’re pushing through.”
The Greenmen went 13-for-34 against Howland pitching. Stephen Hornak took the loss, lasting just one out into the fifth inning and exiting with the bases loaded. He gave up 11 hits and was charged with five of the eight runs that scored against him.