MAYNARD - Good pitching will beat good hitting just about every time..
It did Friday night here at Firemen's Field as southpaw Sam Vincenzo tossed a four-hit shutout in leading fifth-seeded Maynard to a 4-0 victory over the top-seeded Wheeling Cardinals (18-6) in Steele and Cook Insurance Ohio Valley Baseball League semi-final playoff action.
With the win, Maynard (18-7) advances to the championship series against the survivor of the other semi-final matchup in which second-seeded Weirton and No. 3 seed Lafferty are tied after two games. Game three will be held Sunday night at Edwin J. Bowman Field in Weirton at 8:30 due to Beast of the East Tournament action earlier in the day.
The best-of-5 championship series will begin Wednesday in either Weirton or Lafferty.
"We've been playing some pretty good baseball of late," Maynard manager Laney Simone Sr. said. "We've had some good pitching. We knew our pitching would come around. We've got a good staff."
Simone was especially pleased with the effort Vincenzo put forth in the 1-hr., 25-minute contest.
"He mixes his pitches up so well," Simone said of the St. Clairsville product who will be a sophomore at Potomac State this fall. "He looked like he was in total command the entire game. That's all I can say."
Vincenzo, who struck out eight and walked none in his 95-pitch outing (69 strikes), found himself in a second-and-third situation with one out in the top of the first. He wiggled his way out of it by striking out the the cleanup hitter and retiring the next batter on a liner to left that Cory Kotopka misjudged at first, but made a leaping grab of to end the threat.
"That was definitely huge," Vincenzo said of Kotopka's snag. "You always preach to throw a first-pitch strike to get ahead of the next batter. That way you can go anywhere from there.
"I got ahead of the next batter," he continued. "I was in command after that." He threw 19 first-pitch strikes to the 25 batters he faced.
Maynard got all the runs it would need on the third pitch from Cardinals' righthander Brenden Gilles. Leadoff hitter D.J. Busby sent a shot to deep left that easily cleared the fence and bounced over a truck that was travelling down the road.
"That was a little payback for him (Busby) getting hit with a pitch in the first game," Simone said. "We thought it was intentional."
With the lead, Vincenzo allowed a two-out single to Gilles in the second, but would then retire the next 12 Cardinals before Ricky Szeligo's single to right with two-out in the sixth. He finished by setting down the final four to end the game.
"I really tried to work on my changeup today," Vincenzo said when asked if there was one pitch that was working for him. "Especially the second time through the lineup. A changeup is one of those pitches that a hitter really doesn't look for too much. They usually look first-pitch strike and second pitch curveball or fastball again. So my changeup really kept them off-balance."
Maynard added to its lead in the third when the red-hot Mark Cisar laced a double down the leftfield line with one out. With two outs and Cisar on third, B.A. Holloway's smash to third was backhanded by Sean Edge, but his momentum carried him to the ground and he couldn't get a throw off as Cisar raced home to make it 2-0.
The hosts used some two-out lightning in the fourth to pad its cushion to 4-0. Kotopka reached on an infield single and Busby dropped a base hit into shallow left. After fouling off several pitches, Cisar blasted a double to right-center to score both runners.
In his last four games, Cisar is 12-for-15 for a sizzling .800. He has six singles and half-a-dozen doubles that have accounted for six runs batted in. Maynard is 3-1 in those games.
"He's one of those guys that get in that zone, and I know when he's in the zone because I can read him," Simone noted. "I know everything he does in a concentration thing. He's the nucleus to our team."
Szeligo had half of Wheeling's four hits. His one-out double off the bottom of the fence in left gave the Cardinals a chance.
"We faced some good pitching, but we were missing a couple of guys," Szeligo offered. "We had a good season."
Busby (single, home run), Cisar (two doubles) and Max Schimmel (single, double) all had two hits each for Maynard. It had eight total.
Gilles probably deserved a better fate as he struck out six and walked a pair. He threw 103 pitches, 62 of which were strikes.
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