Higgins handcuffs Aquinas in Lowellville win


By ERIC FORTUNE

sports@vindy.com

STRUTHERS

Lowellville rode the arm of Jason Higgins to a 4-1 win over St. Thomas Aquinas on Thursday in a Division IV baseball district semifinal at Bob Cene Park.

Higgins pitched a complete game with three strikeouts and allowed just three hits. His command of five pitches was such that he threw seven or fewer pitches in four innings.

“All five of them were working today,” Higgins said. “They were in front of the changeup. They struggled with the breaking ball. They hit everything in the dirt. It was working today.”

Lowellville will meet Mahoning Valley Athletic Conference rival Springfield in a district final at 5 p.m. today. The Tigers beat Jackson-Milton 2-1 in eight innings in another semifinal.

The Rockets (14-8) got on the board first when Vinnie Kacir reached on a single to right field. After stealing second, he scored on Nate Solak’s double to left to make it 1-0.

The game stayed 1-0 as Higgins escaped a jam with runners at first and second in the third. He came back to strike out Ben Crawford to end the threat.

After a five-pitch fourth, Higgins looked to be chugging along with Max Kaczynski facing a 0-2 count leading off the fifth. Kacynski battled back with a single to center that dropped and ended Higgins’ no-hitter.

“He throws a lot of pitches,” Lowellville coach Nick Clinkscale said. “He’s got five that he can go to. We have confidence in all of them. We start out and see what is working best and go from there.”

Though what had been working stopped with Trever Tesch doubling down the right-field line to put runners at second and third with no outs.

“I had to bear down,” Higgins said. “They started hitting the ball so I had to keep fighting. My defense has been solid all tournament. They hit the ball and we were right there to make the plays.”

The very next batter, Kyle Andrzejczyk hit a flare that shortstop Matt Hvisdak had in his glove for a split second. He was able to keep the ball in the infield and get the runner at second to save two runs.

“He gave it his all,” Higgins said. “He puts it all out there for me. He’s been doing that all year. He’s a hell of a player. We needed that big time.”

Still, the Knights (14-13) were able to tie the game when Zach Meacham’s bunt scored Kacynski. Higgins got out of the inning when Alex Hawkins hit into a 6-4-3 double play.

Lowellville responded in the top half of the sixth as Bryan Harris and Hvisdak reached on a single and a walk.

Facing a 1-2 count, Kacir got the signal to bunt and he put the ball down the third-base line. Catcher Zack Hawkins went to third to get Harris but the ball went over Crawford’s outstretched glove and Harris and Hvisdak scored on the error.

“It’s always when you’re up in that situation, it’s not trying to do something big,” Kacir said. “You just want to get the runners over and get some extra runs.”

The Rockets added one more run when Dylan Durkin’s groundout to third scored Kacir to make it 4-1.

“We’re a veteran team,” Clinkscale said. “We have a lot of juniors and seniors. We’ve been in every type of game from getting blown out, to blowing out the other team, our close wins, to slugfests. There’s nothing that they haven’t seen. They key was to keep them calm and make sure they do their job when called upon.”

Higgins allowed one runner over the final seven batters he faced with two strikeouts in crunch time.

“I told these guys to play defense and pitch the way we’re capable of and we’ll be in every game,” Clinkscale said.

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