Monday, July 15

    Blasini saves the day in Kirtland’s win at Wickliffe

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    Kirtland’s Gino Blasini served as the Hornets’ starting pitcher and closer in the Hornets’ 9-8 win at Wickliffe on Friday.

    Blasini started the game and lasted 5 2/3 innings before Nate Chuko relieved him in the bottom of the sixth with Kirtland leading 9-1. He returned to the mound in the seventh inning after Wickliffe had plated seven runs to pull to within 9-8 with the tying run at third base and slammed the door shut on the Blue Devils.

    “Things just spiraled out of control, and I had to go back to Gino and he closed it out,” said Kirtland coach Luke Smrdel of the wild seventh inning. “He’s our guy and he took care of business like he normally does. He came into a tough situation with the winning run at the plate.”

    Everything went Kirtland’s way up until that seventh inning.

    The Hornets scored five runs in the second and four in the fourth while limiting Wickliffe to just three baserunners through five innings.

    Lucci Cantini singled to start the Kirtland second and Blasini reached on an error.

    Jack Turk was hit by a pitch to load the bases and Carter Luzar singled home Cantini for a 1-0 lead. Max Paul followed with an RBI single and Chuko drew a bases-loaded walk. Thaler’s sacrifice fly gave Kirtland a 4-0 lead, and Paul scored on a passed ball later in the inning.

    Blasini retired the first six Blue Devils he faced with four strikeouts.

    Wickliffe’s first baserunner came via a dropped third strike to start the third inning. Blasini responded with back-to-back strikeouts before the Hornets committed an error that put two Wickliffe runners on base.

    Blasini coaxed a lineout out of the next batter to end that threat.

    Kirtland’s offense went back to work in the fourth.

    Chuko singled to start the Kirtland fourth and Trip Thaler drew a walk. Tyler Turk then hit a one-out RBI single, Cantini walked, and Jack Turk was hit by a pitch to reload the bases with Kirtland leading 7-0.

    Luzar added a two-run single that pushed Kirtland’s lead to 9-0.

    A hit batsman gave Wickliffe a baserunner in the bottom of the fourth but Blasini recorded back-to-back strikeouts to end that inning. He retired the side with a pair of strikeouts in the fifth before yielding a run, and the ball to Chuko.

    Wickliffe’s Nunzio Zivnoska hit a one-out single and stole second. After he moved up to third on a passed ball, Liam Widemire hit a sacrifice fly that cut Kirtland’s lead to 9-1.

    Brandon Henderson singled and Noah Touschner was hit by a pitch to load the bases with two outs.

    Chuko entered the game and struck out the next Wickliffe batter to preserve Kirtland’s big lead.

    The wheels fell off in the bottom of the seventh.

    Two hit batters and a single loaded the bases with one out and two walks sandwiched around an error cut Kirtland’s lead to 9-4. Noah Dohm doubled home two more runners and Chase Bonadio’s two-out RBI single made it a one-run game with runners on first and third.

    Blasini, who entered the game after Dohm’s double, coaxed a popout to end the game.

    “We were playing great and Gino was dominant,” Smrdel said. “He was pounding the zone and keeping batters off balance. He was doing a great job and then he got up there in pitches, so I pulled him out. Chuko did great the other day but it just didn’t happen today, so we had to go back to Gino.”

    Blasini struck out 11 in 6 1/3 innings. He allowed just one earned run on three hits. Chuko struck out one in 2/3 innings of work.

    Luzar led the Hornets at the plate as he finished the game 2-for-2 with a run scored and three RBI. Cantini went 2-for-4 with two runs scored and Turk, Paul, and Chuko each finished the game with one hit.

    With the win, the Hornets improved to 4-0 on the year.

    “We’ve been resilient, which is good,” Smrdel said. “We’ve had some close games and obviously, today when we didn’t want it to be close, but it’s always good to have close games. They prepare you for good things in the future.”




    Steve Hare
    Steve Hare
    The creator and publisher of, Hare has covered high school sports in Northeast Ohio since 1997. He began as a correspondent for the Lake County News Herald, where he contributed until 2011, primarily covering high school football and wrestling. In 1999, Hare began writing for, a member of the network of high school and college sports web sites. He focuses on covering Notre Dame football recruiting. was created in 2004 and was a member of the network until 2012. The site's original purpose was to cover Ohio high school football and recruiting news but since has grown to cover all sports and to provide sports information services to high school athletic programs and individual teams. Hare attended Willoughby South High School through the middle of his senior year, then graduated from Berkshire High School in Burton in 1986. He played football, wrestled and was an all-Geauga county baseball player (1986). He lives in Chardon with his wife Paulette and their children.

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