Central Catholic surged for five fifth-inning runs Friday night and made it stand up in a 7-4 Three Rivers Athletic Conference baseball victory over visiting Clay at Mercy Field.
That rally gave a pitching victory to Irish starter Chad Kuebler, who survived some early trouble to prevail as Central moved to 6-2 overall and 4-0 in the TRAC.
Through four innings, Kuebler had yielded eight hits as the Irish fell behind 4-2. But the senior lefty settled in and held the Eagles (4-7, 1-3) scoreless and hitless over the final three innings.
“We hang in and do what we need to do to get runs back,” Kuebler said. “If we get hit in the mouth, we get right back up.
“I was hanging balls all day. In the beginning I couldn’t find a comfort zone on the mound, so I was just trying to get done what I could."
Clay went up 2-0 in the first inning. Ryan Fournier tripled to center and scored on Aaron Lee’s single to left. Lee scored on Kyle Row’s triple to right.
Central used some small ball to produce a second-inning run.
After Colin Kaucher and Richard O’Donnell opened the inning with infield singles, Cam Best bunted them over, and Tommy Vetter got Kaucher home with an RBI groundout.
Central then tied the game 2-2 in the third inning after two were out.
Kam Weber walked, stole second, went to third on DeShone Kizer’s infield single, and scored on a delayed double-steal.
In the Clay fourth, Bryce Castilleja singled, Jon Quinlan walked, and Austin Gwin singled to load the bases. Christian Orr then lined a two-out, two-run single to center.
Central’s game-winning rally included five hits plus two Clay errors, as the Irish sent 11 batters to the plate in taking a 7-4 lead.
“[Thursday] night was a crazy game and, quite frankly, so was today,” said Irish coach Jeff Mielcarek, whose team rallied for four seventh-inning runs to beat Anthony Wayne 12-11 a night earlier. “Chad competed like he always does. He didn’t have his best stuff, but he was better as the game went on.
“We finally put the ball in play a little bit [during the rally], we were able to run a little bit, and we were the beneficiary of a couple breaks."
Eagles starting pitcher Josh Pennington, who had allowed just three hits through four innings, was chased six batters into the fifth without recording an out.
Kuebler sparked the rally with a single to center, Derich Weiland followed with an infield single, and Ryan O’Hearn reached on an error by Lee at first that enabled Kuebler to score.
Weber poked a two-run single to right, and Kizer added an RBI double to right-center, then scored on second baseman Orr’s errant throw during a rundown.
“Right now we’re just not really handling pressure situations,” first-year Clay coach Jim Phillips said. “The biggest thing is, when we make one mistake — which is going to happen at points of the game — we have to bow our necks, make the next play, and not let it snowball.
“We’re letting one [bad] thing compound itself, and not having anyone step up and make a play to cut the bleeding off.”