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    Kirtland rides big inning to win over Berkshire in first-place showdown

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    KIRTLAND—Kirtland scored six runs in the bottom of the second inning to down visiting Berkshire in a battle for first place in the Chagrin Valley Conference Valley Division standings on Monday, 6-3.

    “Honestly, we just put the ball in play,” said Kirtland head coach Luke Smrdel. “We got the little breaks, and baseball is a funny game like that. Sometimes you get (the little breaks), and today we did. We got six runs across that inning, and every little thing was going our way. (Berkshire) is a very good team; having the breaks in a game like this is huge.”

    The Hornets’ six-run rally was sparked by a one-out single from Jack Turk, and Carter Luzar drove him home with a run-scoring single for the game’s first run.

    Trip Thaler blooped a single on the infield to load the bases, and Max Paul, who reached on a walk, scored off an RBI single courtesy of Will Bates before Tyler Turk blistered a two-run single to left-center that put Kirtland on top 5-0 with Thaler and WillT Bates scoring.

    Jack Turk then drove home Tyler Turk with a two-out RBI single.

    Berkshire got on the board in the top of the fourth when Jason Brent hit an RBI double that scored Jack Hastings, who reached on a dropped third strike.

    The Badgers added two more in the fifth.

    Oliver Miller led off the frame with a single and Ethan Martin hit a two-run home run over the fence in right-center, cutting Kirtland’s lead to 6-3.

    Kirtland starter Gino Blasini kept the Berkshire offense quiet despite the RBI double and two-run home run, recording eight strikeouts in the pitching win.

    “Berkshire is always a good team, and when we’re playing good teams, I tend to get more locked in,” Blasini said. “Lucci (Cantini) and coach were calling the pitches behind the plate, and I didn’t really shake off that many (pitches). I was just hitting the zone today.”

    Blasini improved to 7-0 on the season with a 1.75 earned run average and 55 strikeouts in 48 innings of work, all on odd days.

    “It’s been a superstition since my freshman and sophomore years,” Blasini said. “I haven’t had to pitch on an even-numbered day yet this year, but if I got called on for an even day, I don’t think I’d mind much. But, pitching on odd days, I’m doing pretty well.”

    Good pitching performances have been relatively easy to come by from Kirtland, especially when Blasini toes the rubber.

    “It’s an odd day, Gino on an odd day is Gino,” Smrdel said of Blasini’s pitching. The kid is a competitor. He goes out there, and he really just gives it his all every time. We have total faith in him to get the job done, and he does.”

    Berkshire entered the day 6-0 in conference play, with Kirtland sitting firmly at 7-1 in league play, setting up for an extensive two-game set between top Valley Division rivals.

    “That’s the thing: It was a must-win game,” Smrdel said of the mindset pregame. “Every game, we talk about, ‘This is the biggest game of the year, and we got to be ready to go,’ and these guys were locked in by the time we got to the field. We were locked in the start, ready to roll, and it was a good day all around.”

    Kirtland will have to keep that mentality intact for another 24 hours as the Hornets visit Berkshire on Tuesday in the season finale between the two league rivals.

    The Hornets improved to 14-3 overall and 8-1 in the Valley Division while the Badgers dropped to 9-5, 6-1.

    Tuesday’s game is a big one as Kirtland can clinch a share of the conference title with a win. The Badgers need to beat the Hornets on Tuesday and then root for Harvey to win at least one in its two-game series against the Hornets.

    “We talked about it after the game. We’ve got to get the lead early, build on the lead, and keep the momentum on our side,” Smrdel said. “Going to Berkshire is not an easy task at any time, being locked in and ready to go from when we get there. We’re locked in now. I feel like these guys are ready to go for tomorrow.”

    Tyler Turk led the Kirtland offense at the plate, going 2-for-3 with one run scored and two RBI.

    Bates, Luzar, and Jack Turk each drove in a run for the Hornets, with both Turk brothers collecting multi-hit games for Kirtland.

    Blasini earned the pitching win on the mound after going the distance, allowing two earned runs on six hits with one walk and eight strikeouts.

    Patrick Brancel, who went 2-for-4 at the dish, paced the Badger offense. Miller finished 2-for-2 with a walk and one run scored.

    Martin went 1-for-4 with a two-run homer, and Brent drove in a run, going 1-for-2 with a double.

    Martin takes the loss of the mound after going six innings and allowing six runs on eight hits with three walks and seven strikeouts.

     

     

     

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