KIRTLAND—Behind Jacob Boyd’s big day at the plate, the Kirtland Hornets won their second consecutive sectional championship with a 13-3 six-inning win over visiting Wickliffe on Friday at Recreation Park.
Boyd was 3-for-4 with a double, a home run and seven runs batted in. In his last two games, Boyd is 7-for-9 with 10 RBI and is now batting .355 on the year.
“He’s been locked in,” said Kirtland coach Luke Smrdel. “He had four hits (in a 10-7 win over Independence) on Tuesday and three hits today. He’s just pounding the ball. He’s got a great approach at the plate. That home run was with two strikes. Any pitch, any at bat he’s ready to hit.”
Kirtland, which improved to 18-8 on the year, will play the winner of Monday’s sectional final between Berkshire and top-seeded Pymatuning Valley on Thursday at Euclid.
The Hornets got off to a slow start against the Blue Devils but used a four-run third to turn a 1-1 tie into a 5-1 lead.
Wickliffe made it interesting in the fourth with a leadoff double and a walk. A Kirtland error then led to a pair of runs and the Blue Devils had the bases loaded.
Finkler recorded a strike out and forced a ground out to end the inning with the Hornets on top, 5-3. Kirtland added three runs in the bottom half of the inning to make it 8-3.
“Matthew worked out of that tough bases loaded situation there in the fourth inning and then we scored three runs and won the inning,” Smrdel said. “If we win every inning we’re going to do pretty well.”
Bates and Fortuna singled and Finkler walked to again load the bases for the Hornets in the bottom of the fourth. A Wickliffe error led to two Kirtland runs and the Hornets added another on a ground out.
“In the playoffs you’ve got to expect that one inning might be a bad inning for us,” Smrdel said. “We got through it though. If we have a bad inning we’ve got to get through it as fast as possible and we did. We’ve got to limit our mistakes and try to sustain what we’re doing and then come back and score runs and we did.”
Finkler, who allowed three unearned runs on four hits and struck out three, didn’t allow another ball out of the infield and the Hornets put the game away with five runs in the bottom of the sixth.
Fortuna doubled and Finkler singled to set the stage for Boyd’s homer. He hit the ball over the centerfielder’s head and used his speed to beat the throw to the plate.
“I told the boys in between innings, this is when we’ve got to make our move,” Smrdel. “We’ve got to put a team down. We’ve got to go after them from the start to the finish. They did that. They hit the ball great all day.”
The Hornets will play in the district semifinals for the second consecutive season but they hope to avoid the mistakes that cost them a shot at a district title.
Kirtland made several early errors to fall behind Gilmour Academy, 6-3, but battled back and had the tying run in scoring positing when a line drive up the middle was snagged by the Lancers’ shortstop, who stepped on second to complete the unassisted double play that ended the game and Kirtland’s record-setting season. The Hornets won a school-record 20 games last season.
“This is a whole different team,” Smrdel said. “We’re pretty young this year and I told them to remember that game and remember what happened. We made a couple mistakes and it really killed us. We have to take the mindset we had in this game into that game and hopefully we go out and get a W. The right mindset will hopefully get it done.”