Ursuline topples South Range for fourth straight title
The bottom of the second inning of Thursday’s Division III district baseball final at Bob Cene Park is one Irish shortstop Joel Hake couldn’t remember and Raiders center fielder Billy Goodall won’t soon forget.
Ursuline crossed the plate six times and South Range committed four errors, and when the third out was finally recorded, the Irish were well on their way to a 11-2 victory and a fourth straight district championship.
“I don’t remember,” Hake said of his approach during the six-run second. “But after that we weren’t going down again. It gave our pitcher confidence, it gave our defense confidence — it just all came together from there.”
Goodall had a different feeling of the half inning in which the Raiders’ season slipped away.
“We fell apart one inning and gave up [five] errors,” Goodall said. “You’re not going to win like that.”
A night after the Irish (10-10) avenged two regular-season losses to Springfield by eliminating the Tigers in the district semifinal, they knock out South Range (22-4), which had defeated Ursuline 9-5 in their only regular-season meeting. Irish coach Sean Durkin had a feeling that once his team was able to get into a grove after a difficult spring, results would come.
“We pitched and fielded pretty well all year, we just couldn’t muster anything on the offensive end,” Durkin said. “Luckily for us these last two days have been the best we’ve swung it all year.”
The Irish batted around in the lopsided second and the flood gates opened after a two-RBI triple by Michael Montalbano to make the score 4-1. The damage led to an early exit for Raiders starter Tyler Baird, who was 6-1.
He lasted just two innings, gave up seven hits, six runs, walked one and struck out one.
“If you can put a crooked number up in a game like this, because both sides know what the game means,” Durkin said. “To take that kind of lead early in the game puts a lot of pressure on the other team.”
The pressure only intensified as Ursuline starter Vinnie Lucente continued to throw strikes. The junior pitcher was able to solve the Raiders’ lineup all evening with the exception of Goodall, who had the three South Range hits.
Goodall crushed a Lucente pitch to the wall in right field in the top of the first inning. Right fielder Zach Patton missed the cut-off on his throw, allowing Goodall to come around to score for the game’s first run.
Lucente would settle in from there, not allowing a runner past second base until the fifth inning.
“It’s just him throwing strikes,” Hake said of his pitcher. “He’s hard to hit when he gets his fastball going and his slider going.
“He’s fun to play defense behind.”
With Goodall on in relief, the Irish added two runs in the third — aided by the fifth Raiders error of the game — and three more in the fourth. Patton drove in two of the runs on a RBI single that gave Ursuline a 10-run lead.
Goodall kept South Range’s season alive in the top half of the fifth inning with a RBI-double, scoring Zach Thorpe.
“Obviously to win district was one of our goals,” Goodall said. “But if you look back we had a great season.”
Hake reached base in each of his five at-bats to lead an Irish offense that recorded 11 hits. Lucente improved to 2-2, striking out five and allowing just one earned run on three hits.
The Irish advance to face Gilmour Academy in a regional semifinal at Massillon High School, Thursday at 2 p.m.