Keystone Wildcats come back to beat Elyria Catholic Panthers, nab third straight district title

PARMA — It’s been a rough week for Keystone first baseman Korey Horne, who has been battling strep throat, a double ear infection and a sinus infection.

After visiting the hospital on Sunday, he played all seven innings of Tuesday’s 14-5 Division III Parma District semifinal win over conference-rival Clearview.

Wednesday against Elyria Catholic (15-13) in the district finals the junior went 0-for-3 his first three at-bats, striking out in the fifth with runners on second and third and a chance to give his Wildcats the lead. Nevertheless, he came through when it mattered most, overcoming an 0-2 count and turning a 10-pitch at-bat into a two-run double that gave Keystone (23-7) a 7-5 advantage and would prove to be the deciding runs in the Wildcats’ 7-6 win.

“I couldn’t let my team down, I knew we were in a big spot,” Horne said. “I let them down earlier in the game so I battled back and hit a mistake (pitch).”

Centerfielder Collin Fitzgerald tied the game at 5 earlier in the inning on a double that drove home leadoff hitter Pierce Young. Horne committed a throwing error in the bottom of the inning that allowed Elyria Catholic to score, but Fitzgerald coaxed Christian Stanziano into a ground ball to seal Keystone’s third district crown in as many seasons.

“You have to give all the credit to these kids here,” Keystone coach Bert Fitzgerald said. “They love coming to this field. We’re just trying to carry on a tradition.”

The ceremonial road club dug itself out of an early hole to capture the win. Young scored on a sacrifice fly in the top of the first but Wildcats starter Marcus Gunter (2-4) struggled mightily in the bottom of the inning, walking three batsmen and hitting another while giving up four runs. He was replaced on the bumpy by Tyler Gullett after walking leadoff hitter Angelo Cruz to begin the second.

Keystone began chipping away at the lead in the third, as Young walked and Gullett drove him home with a double to deep center. Gunter followed with a double of his own to make the score 4-3.

The Wildcats went on to knot the score in the fourth. Horne was struck out by Panthers starter Joey Begany to start the inning but a passed ball allowed him to make it to first. Aaron Brodnick moved Horne to third with a single to shallow left.

Denny Szalai was then hit by a pitch at which point Horne was replaced on the base path by Josh Piotrowski and Szalai was moved out in favor of Bradley Conrad. The moved paid off when a double steal brought Piotrowski home for the game-tying run.

“What a game,” Panthers head coach Bruce Lisicky said. “We started off aggressive and took the lead and it took a lot of pressure off ourselves but Keystone battled back. Both teams battled, really.”

Elyria Catholic regained the lead in the fifth when Gullett issued a walk to Ian Kovacs and first baseman Noah Bland plated him with a double. Gullett pitched six innings, striking out five, walking three and allowing one run on three hits in the win. Fitzgerald picked up the save.

“Tyler did a great job coming in,” Bert Fitzgerald said. “We’ve had trouble figuring out who our relief guys are all year and a lot of times we haven’t needed them. Tyler and Collin have been two guys we can count on.”

Begany hurled five innings in the loss, striking out three and walking four while giving up five runs in the loss.

“It’s been an up and down season for us,” Lisicky said. “We tried playing a tougher schedule to prepare us for this and I think it went a long way helping us get this far. We have nothing to hang our head about. We’re not satisfied with the way the game ended but we’re happy with our season.”

Having won the district title, Keystone moves on to play in the Massillon Regional.

Keystone 7, Elyria Catholic 6

Division III Parma

District Final

Keystone (23-7) 102 100 3 — 7 7 1

Elyria Catholic (15-14) 400 010 1 — 6 5 2

TWO HITS OR MORE — Keystone: Pierce Young; Elyria Catholic: Sean Darmafall; 2B — K: Tyler Gullett, Marcus Gunter, Collin Fitzgerald; EC: Noah Bland; WP — Gullett, LP — Dan Whitacre, S — Fitzgerald.

Last Updated: 5/22/2013 11:55:49 PM EST

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