CLYDE — After posting gut-wrecking victories Wednesday in the Division IV district baseball semifinals, two familiar foes will face each other for a berth in the regional semifinals.
Toledo Christian led 5-0 after two innings and then held on for a 7-5 win over Gibsonburg, ranked No. 3 in Ohio. Cardinal Stritch rallied for three runs in the top of the seventh inning to slip past Sandusky St. Mary 7-6 in the other semifinal.
Toledo Christian (18-6) and Stritch (14-9) split their Toledo Area Athletic Conference games this season. The district final is at 5 p.m. Friday in Clyde.
“We talk about being family and that's how we play for seven innings,”said TC coach Tab Greenlee. “We knew this was going to be a tough game, and even when it was 7-1, I told the guys that it's not good enough. We had to play aggressively the whole way.”
In the four-run second inning for the Eagles, Kyle Kempton hit a two-run double, Andrew Gast had an RBI single, and a run scored on an error.
Breet Freeman retired the first eight Golden Bears he faced.
“I was throwing pretty good,” Freeman said. “I pulled a hamstring in the sectional final game, but I was able to work through it.”
Gibsonburg got a run back in the fourth inning on Andrew Cantrell's RBI double.
TC then got single runs in both the fifth and sixth innings to take a 7-1 lead into the bottom of the sixth.
The Golden Bears sent eight batters to the plate in the sixth to make things interesting. Brent Hayward and Gabe Hickman each had a two-RBI base hit.
After Hickman's hit brought Gibsonburg to within 7-5, Gast relieved Freeman with two on and two out, and ended the inning on a fly ball out to left field.
“That's the first time we've seen [Freeman] this year and he did a great job,” Gibsonburg coach Kyle Rase said.
In the bottom of the seventh, Greenlee went to left-hander Kody Brown, and Gibsonburg had two runners reach on a single and an error with two out, but Brown got the final out on a high foul pop-up to third base.
Cantrell and Preston Arriaga each had two hits for Gibsonburg (22-5) which has set a school record for wins.
“If we could have played at the beginning of the game like we did at the end of the game, then maybe it's a different story,” Rase said. “We didn't play well enough for seven innings to win the game today.”
Kempton, Freeman, with two doubles, Judd Nearhood, and Jordan Adesi, each had two hits for the Eagles.
In the other semifinal, Sandusky St. Mary led 4-1 after two innings and 6-4 heading into the top of the seventh.
Stritch loaded the bases with no outs on two errors and a walk. After a strike out, Robert Johnson walked to pull the Cardinals to within 6-5. Ricky Pratt then hit a two-RBI single down the first-base line to put Stritch ahead to stay.
“Robert did a nice job with his at-bat and then Ricky Pratt's base hit was just awesome to see,” said Stritch coach Robert Meinzer.
“We've been waiting to get here for the longest time,” said Johnson, a senior. “The mindset was that we were expected to lose, but we were coming in here to win. We were going to do whatever we needed to win.”
In the bottom of the seventh, Sean Killian set down the side in order to secure the win. Second baseman Adam Buenrostro made a nice defensive play to record the first out of the inning.
“Sean came in and did a great job,” Meinzer said. “He had done a nice job a couple of times this year, coming in and shutting teams down.''
In the third inning, Stritch scored three runs to tie the game at 4. Jake Empie hit a two-run single and Johnson added an RBI single for the Cardinals in the inning.
The game remained tied until St. Mary (16-9) scored twice in the sixth to take a 6-4 lead.
Stritch had seven hits in the game led by Brooks Gasser's single and double.