Monday, May 20

    Kirtland improves to 8-0 with win over Grand Valley

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    Max Paul struck out nine in six innings as Kirtland defeated host Grand Valley on Wednesday, 5-4.

    With the win, the Hornets, ranked second in the latest Division III state poll, improved to 8-0 overall and 4-0 in the Chagrin Valley Conference Valley Division.

    “We hit the ball well and hit in situations when we needed to with some clutch hits,” said Kirtland coach Luke Smrdel. “We got a couple of insurance runs, which really paid off at the end with a one-run lead.”

    The win wasn’t without some drama as Grand Valley scored two runs in the bottom of the sixth and seventh innings.

    Kirtland’s insurance run in the top of the seventh proved to be the difference in the game.

    “It’s a learning experience,” Smrdel said. “Every run matters and you can never get comfortable with a lead. Anything can happen in baseball, and obviously, we saw that against Wickliffe, and today, we almost saw it again. We were able to get through it and shut it down, but it was interesting for sure.”

    Kirtland broke a scoreless tie with two runs in the top of the fourth inning.

    Tyler Turk and Lucci Cantini hit back-to-back singles to start the rally and Jack Turk’s sacrifice fly made it 1-0. Macguire Boyd later hit a two-out single that gave Kirtland a 2-0 advantage.

    The Hornets tacked on two more in the fifth when Trip Thaler hit a one-out single and Gino Blasini followed with a single. Thaler and Tyler Turk, who reached on a fielder’s choice, both scored on an error that increased Kirtland’s lead to 4-0.

    It remained that way until the Mustangs broke through in the sixth.

    A leadoff single coupled with a one-out walk, an error, and a hit batsman led to Payton Plizga’s two-run single.

    The Hornets responded with one run in the top of the seventh when Tyler Turk doubled and scored on Cantini’s RBI single.

    Nate Chuko took the hill in the seventh and gave up a pair of singles and a hit batter before yielding to Drew Thaler with the Hornets leading 5-3 and the tying run at the plate.

    A fielder’s choice cut Kirtland’s lead to 5-4 but Thaler retired the next two Mustangs to earn a save.

    Paul earned the win after his six innings of work.

    “He’s been on all year and has great stuff,” Smrdel said of Paul. “He pounds the zone and keeps his hitters off balance. He does a great job of that.”

    Tyler Turk, Cantini, and Boyd each collected two hits for the Hornets. Thaler, Blasini, Carter Luzar, and Will Bates each had one hit.

    Kirtland travels to Madison on Friday.


    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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