Jacob sharp as Devils blank UL in Division III

CAMBRIDGE – When a baseball team has its ace on the mound and he’s throwing well, the offense doesn’t need to do much.

St. Clairsville head coach Tom Sliva handed the ball to his sophomore southpaw Michael “Zuke” Jacob, who has been pitching exceptionally well in his last four or five outings.

Jacob – a crafty lefthander, who mixes pitches and speeds well – continued his string of impressive performances, received plenty of offense and thus the Red Devils advanced to the second round of the Division III sectional tournament at Don Coss Field inside City Park by blanking Union Local, 6-0, Saturday afternoon.

“I can’t say enough about how well Zuke threw today,” Sliva said. “Plus, we played good defense behind him and I thought we did a lot of good things at the plate in terms of situational hitting.”

Jacob breezed through the first inning and when he came back out for the second, he’d been spotted a 5-0 lead as the Red Devils took advantage of two Jets’ errors and jumped on UL starter Justin Riley.

“One of the best feelings in the world, as a pitcher, is when you’re offense gets a bunch of runs early,” Jacob said of the 5-0 cushion he was spotted. “It’s nice to have the cushion behind you and it’s also nice that you know you’re teammates are behind you.”

Malik Gummer led off the home half of the first with a double. Daulton Freeman walked and Turner Provost dropped down a sacrifice bunt, but reached when the throw was wild. Freeman waltzed home when an attempted pick-off play went astray.

Designated hitter Joel Giffin then laced a single to score Provost. Ninth hitter Patrick Buchanan lofted a single into shallow rightcenter, plating the final two runs of the first.

“When you get a chance to get an out, you have to get an out,” UL head coach Mark Cisar said. “They had runners on first and second, and everyone in the place knew they were going to bunt. You call the defense for the bunt and we still throw it away. It’s baseball, you have to make the routine plays.”

Jacob allowed a lead-off single in the second, but escaped without any damage. He didn’t allow another runner until the sixth.

“Jacob has been on his game of late,” Cisar said. “If you can’t get guys on base, you can’t make anything happen. He did a good job of working ahead and he was able to get strikeouts when he needed to. Our hitting woes continued. We’ve not hit the ball well all season. You’re not going to win high school baseball games with three or four hits.”

All told, the Jets finished with just two singles and advanced just one runner to third and a total of two into scoring position all afternoon.

While he doesn’t blow the fastball by people, Jacob found his way to 10 strikeouts.

“I’m fortunate that I’ve got a solid defense behind me, our offense always hits the ball and my catcher (Luke Slavik) does a great job,” Jacob said.

Jacob helped himself at the plate in the fourth whe he lined a sharp single into right, scoring Giffin, who had drawn a two-out walk and stole second.

“When you make the most of your opportunities and get pitching like we did, it’s usually a good recipe for success,” Sliva said. “I’ve been around this game a long time that five run lead might feel like 30, but it’s certainly not. We just kept talking about winning every inning.”

Buchanan and Giffin both finished with two hits.

Union Local’s two singles were produced by Griffey Girty and Eric Dunfee.