Mineral Ridge starter Klamer pitches complete game shutout in 3-0 district semifinal win over Jackson-Milton

Staff photo / Brian Yauger Mineral Ridge pitcher Xavier Klamer fires a pitch during the team's district semifinal victory over Jackson-Milton on Tuesday.

NILES — Both Mineral Ridge and Jackson-Milton’s coaches knew how their game was going to turn out.

The two best arms in the Mahoning Valley Athletic Conference – Scarlet Tier squared off against one another with a trip to the district finals on the line.

A single run very well could have decided the game, and it was the Rams who got on the board first, with pitcher Xavier Klamer knocking home fellow sophomore Andrew Gillie with a double after five and a half scoreless innings.

That kickstarted Mineral Ridge, who went on to down the Blue Jays, 3-0, in a Division IV, Niles District semifinal matchup.

“With those two pitchers, we definitely had a ‘first one to score a run wins’ mentality,” Mineral Ridge coach Anthony Ragozine said. “You’ve got to find a way to get one runner for us and then those two (pitchers) can shut the door on anybody.”

Klamer threw a complete game shutout, on 115 pitches, striking out eight.

“He was a dog,” Ragozine said. “That’s what he does every day. Even on his off days, he’s out there battling. He gives up one run, he’s 5-0 on the season. That’s just the kind of kid he is.”

Even down to his last hitter of the night, Klamer fought through, finishing with a pop-up out that sealed the deal.

Gillie, who was knocked in by his pitcher an inning prior, sent home Jackson Geddes before himself scoring on a wild pitch.

Unfortunately for the Blue Jays, their best chance at scoring was stifled in the top of the sixth, and they couldn’t capitalize in the seventh.

Jackson-Milton’s year ends at 13-9.

“I saw a great game between two pitchers, and two good teams as well,” Blue Jays coach Matt Ruby said. “We knew what kind of game was going on. Coach Ragozine and I are good friends, like we knew exactly what was going to happen today. At the end of the day, somebody had to win and somebody had to lose.”

Losing just two seniors, Jackson-Milton is gearing towards a return next season. Obviously the goal is to go one step beyond. One way they can make that happen is better utilizing the small ball.

“I hope they learn what it takes to win these kinds of games,” Ruby said. “We’re still young, but we’re not young if that makes any sense to anybody. But at the end of the day, like we told these kids going into the tournament, the team that can get a bunt down, the team that can field a bunt — those teams are going to win a tournament game. And they executed more on the small ball than we did today.”

If they can do that, Ruby is confident in his group going forward

“Our overall record doesn’t show what kind of team we are,” he said. “Nobody wants to draw us in the tournament. We have good pitching and we play good defense. It’s just when we have runners on third base and less than two outs, we just have to get that ground ball to get that guy home and we had plenty of those opportunities today that we just couldn’t get done.”

The Rams get to face Warren JFK in the district title game on Thursday. Start time is 5 p.m. at Waddell Park in Niles.

Kennedy is a tough team, but Mineral Ridge isn’t afraid of being the underdog.

“We know that we’re gonna go into this being the underdogs and I think we’re up for the challenge,” Ragozine said. “I mean, somebody’s gotta win that game and we’re going to give them our best shot and see what happens.”

Have an interesting story? Contact Brian Yauger by email at byauger@tribtoday.com. Follow him on X, formerly Twitter, @_brianyauger.


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