By BOB ETTINGER
Trailing and in need of some kind of spark, the Austintown Fitch baseball team found itself in the perfect spot in its batting order — the bottom.
Vinny DiRenzo provided that spark and Kole Klasic ignited a fire as the Falcons cruised to a 5-2 victory over Howland at Eastwood Field on Monday.
“We just needed a spark,” Fitch coach Joe Paris said. “All year long, the bottom of the order has been great. Then we flip it to the top and they’ve been killing the ball all year. It’s been a habit for us. [Number] eight or nine get on and then the top kills the ball.”
With the Falcons (13-5, 5-1 in All-American Conference Red) down 2-0, DiRenzo reached on an infield single to lead off the top half of the third, and Klasic blasted a double to the base of the wall in left to plate DiRenzo.
“When you’re down early like that, you need that big hit,” Klasic said. “We got one of those runs back and we had another runner in scoring position.
“That puts all the pressure on the pitcher. I was looking for something off speed. He got ahead of me quick. He blew one past me. I was just looking for something off speed.”
Klasic scored on Mike Grazier’s double to the gap in right-center. Grazier scored on a passed ball after a Nick Belcik single to right. Belcik scored on Nick Bianco’s single to left.
From there, Fitch hurler Cole Constance went to work retiring the next 10 Tigers he faced. He allowed just one hit over the final five innings in a complete-game victory.
“Being down, 2-0, puts the whole thing on the pitcher,” Constance said. “You’re frustrated. You’re mad. Then Cole had that big hit and that was a big spark. Up two, it wipes everything away. I went out after that with a lot of confidence.”
Constance allowed just five hits, struck out a pair and walked one after allowing two runs on four hits in the first two innings.
“He knew his team had his back,” Howland coach Justin Drapp said. “They gave him the lead and he knew all he needed to do was go out and throw strikes. That’s exactly what he did. He did a great job.”
Jeremiah Papa singled and later scored on a balk to put the Falcons ahead, 5-2, in the seventh.
Howland pitcher Dylan Keller singled and scored on a passed ball to put the Tigers (1-8, 0-6) up, 1-0, in the home half of the first. Josh McCleery scored the Tigers’ second run on Jackson Deemer’s single to center in the second.
“We were able to put the bat on the ball and make things happen,” Drapp said. “It was big that we cut down on the strikeouts at the beginning and we made [Constance] pitch to us. It was good to see us string some hits together.”
Keller took the loss. He worked seven innings, allowed five runs on nine hits and struck out five. He walked two.