Kirtland scored the first six runs of the game on the way to beating Villa Angela-St. Joseph in the Division III Lakewood District championship game on Wednesday, 9-2.
With the win, the Hornets advanced to the regional tournament for the second consecutive season.
“It’s a great step for the program,” Kirtland coach Luke Smrdel said. “We’ve been working hard for the last couple of years to build this program and get it to the next level. Hopefully, we can do that when we get to regionals.”
Kirtland will play Applecreek Waynedale at Massillon High School in the regional semifinals on May 30. The Hornets lost to Grand Valley, 4-3, in last year’s regional semifinal round.
Joey Torok singled and stole second to start the bottom of the first. He scored on Seann McGill’s single and McGill stole second then crossed the plate after two balks by the VASJ pitcher.
The Hornets added four more runs in the bottom of the second.
Jayme Torok started that rally with a single.
Andrew DeMarco then hit a one-out single to score Torok and starting pitcher Vinny Liuzzo doubled to put runners at second and third. Joey Torok singled home one run and Joey Mongelluzzi reached on an error to score another.
McGill, who finished the day 2-for-4 with three RBI, hit his second single of the game to make it 6-0.
“Last year, it was really cool to win (the district) because it was the first one in school history, but this one is special because we knew even after losing a few great players last year we still had the right pieces in place to make another run,” McGill said. “It felt great to come out and get a lead for Vince today. Everyone came out hitting the ball, which was great to see. For me, when there are runners on, it’s just my job to put the ball in play and put pressure on the defense to make a play, especially with runners in scoring position.”
That early lead was crucial for the Hornets, who improved to 19-7.
“That was the big thing going into the game, we had to get the lead early and we had to play solid defense and we did,” Smrdel said. “That’s what we have to do later in this tournament too. It’s a lot different pitching with a lead in comparison to pitching being down in a game. We want to get the pitchers the right mindset by doing that.”
Liuzzo allowed one of VASJ’s two runs in the top of the third on three singles and a bases-loaded hit by pitch. He gave up another in the fifth and pitched out of jams in the sixth and seventh to record the complete-game victory.
“Vince has been awesome out of the bullpen all year,” Smrdel said. “He’s only had one start but he gets the job done consistently so we gave him the ball and he got it done again. He’s a guy who we can go to at any point in the game and even to start a game, which is great.”
Liuzzo allowed two runs on 13 hits and he struck out three.
“The complete game felt amazing,” Liuzzo said. “Not many pitchers throw a complete game and having a great defense behind me to help me was helpful. I went out there and did what I do best. I just kept pounding the zone with my fastball even when I was down in the count or had runners on the bases. My go-to pitch for the day was my two-seam fastball. All day, it was working and tailing a lot, so it was helpful to rely on that when I was down in the count on batters.”
Joey and Jayme Torok, Mongelluzzi, DeMarco and Liuzzo also finished the game with two hits for the Hornets.