Central Catholic may have had the home-field advantage in Thursday’s Division I sectional baseball final against Springfield, but it was the visiting Blue Devils who made themselves right at home with a 4-3 victory at Mercy Field.
The Devils (16-7) grabbed an early lead, then used solid defense to back the bend-but-not-break pitching of junior lefty Billy Todorowski, who navigated his way through three precarious situations.
“Billy gutted it out like he always does,” Springfield coach Dave Whitmire said. “Nothing fazes the kid. He knows he’s got good stuff, and when he throws his three pitches for strikes he’s pretty effective and one of the best in the area.”
The last jam Todorowski survived came in the bottom of the seventh, when Central (15-7) used four hits to plate two runs. The Irish had two runners aboard when designated hitter Zach Wambold grounded into a game-ending forceout to Devils third baseman Austin Siefert.
“I like being in those situations a lot,” Todorowski said. “That’s why I like baseball. I like to let them put the ball in play for my defense.
“I was hitting my spots with my off-speed stuff, and my fastball felt pretty nice.”
Springfield touched Irish lefty starter Chad Kuebler (5-1) for six hits in the first two innings and took a 3-0 lead.
Austin Miles led off the game with an infield single and later scored on Scott Seymour’s single.
In the second, Tommy Kleinfelter singled to left, Charlie Palmer hit a one-out single to right, and Miles drove Kleinfelter home with a single. Palmer later scored on a throwing error by Irish first baseman Cam Best.
“We put ourselves in a tough position, and they were flawless the entire game less the one error they had in the seventh,” Central coach Jeff Mielcarek said. “We just didn’t play our best baseball, and you can’t do that against a good team like them.”
Central left the bases loaded without scoring in the third inning and had another chance in the sixth.
Kam Weber reached on a one-out bunt single, Colin Kaucher followed with a single to center, and DeShone Kizer’s single to right scored Weber.
Todorowski walked Richard O’Donnell to load the bases with one out, but struck out Kuebler looking, and Best lined out to second baseman Palmer.
Springfield got a pivotal insurance run in the top of the seventh, when Palmer (2-for-2) led off with bloop single to right, and was bunted to second by Miles (2-for-3). Palmer later scored on a two-out single to right by Seymour (2-for-4).
Weber opened the bottom of the seventh with a double to left, and Kaucher reached on Siefert’s throwing error. After Kizer grounded to Todorowski, O’Donnell’s bloop single to left scored Weber.
Kuebler’s bloop single to right plated Kaucher to make it 4-3, but Best’s grounder to the left side hit the leg of Irish pinch-runner Joe Dandino for the second out, and Todorowski retired Wambold to send the Devils to Thursday’s district semifinals.
“I was pretty shaken up about that, but I tried to gut it out,” Todorowski said. “They hit a couple bloopers and I was pretty irritated about that. But I knew we were going to win.”
Added Whitmire: “We’ve had a tough week. We lost a four-year starter [Blake Rudolph, .362 batting average, 4-0 pitching record] who’s going to have Tommy John surgery, and we have another four-year starter [Kory Petiniot, .382] who isn’t with us right now for some school issues.
“But I’m happy for our guys. It’s a great group of kids, and this is a good win for our program.”