Huge sixth propels Steubenville Catholic past Shadyside

SHADYSIDE — For five innings of Tuesday’s Ohio Division IV sectional baseball final between Shadyside and Steubenville Catholic, the pitchers — and the defenses behind them — were in control.

That all changed in the sixth.

There, the Crusaders awoke from their slumber, pegging the Tigers for four runs en route to a 5-1 triumph at Fleming Field and a berth in next week’s district tournament.

The Crusaders will face Strasburg in semifinal Monday afternoon at 5 at Claymont High School.

“We knew it was going to be a battle,” said Steubenville Catholic head coach Don Young, whose club ousted Shadyside from the OVAC 2A tournament last month. “Early on we missed some opportunities and made some mistakes. But we just kept telling (the players) to keep grinding. Our chance finally came and we took advantage of it.”

Bryce Amos only allowed three hits and four baserunners in the first five innings, but he lost his touch in the sixth, walking the first three batters — Anthony Lefever, Luca Connor and Anthony Sprochi — loading the bases.

At that point, Shadyside skipper Shawn Selmon brought in Mason VanNest to face Noah Fayak. The senior responded by dropping a hit into shallow right scoring two and giving the Crusaders the lead. An error on the play also allowed Sprochi and Fayak to move to third and second, respectively, still with no outs.

VanNest next hit cleanup batter Dom Argentine to load the bases, followed by another hit batsman — Matt Bell. That one scored Sprochi as the bases were loaded and Steubenville Catholic went up 3-1.

Later with two away, another hit batsman resulted in the fourth run of the inning.

“(Tuesday, like the OVAC semifinal), we thought we could do it early,” Young said. “We had some opportunities early but, again, we just had to stay with it.”

The Crusaders (13-8) left a runner stranded at third in the first then fell victim to a pair of Shadyside defensive gems in the second and third that thwarted potential scoring threats.

The Tigers (17-6), meanwhile, had trouble getting its offense in gear, but broke through in the third.

There, with two out, Kelly Hendershot singled in Collin Holmes. But that was the only damage Shadyside could do against Bell, who went the distance, fanning six.

“He’s done that all year,” Young said of his ace. “(Tuesday), he kept his pitch count down. He was really efficient. He was throwing strikes and he was pounding the zone.”

Young also praised Amos, who fanned one.

“Bryce certainly did a great job on the mound for us through five innings,” Selmon agreed. “We just couldn’t get our leadoff guy on in any inning. And once we did get guys on, we had too many outs to do a whole lot with them.”

The Tigers registered three baserunners in the final two innings, but by then it was too late.

“We weren’t being aggressive enough in the count,” Selmon said. “He’d go right at us and we didn’t take advantage of it.”

Although disappointed at seeing the season end, Selmon said he was encouraged by many things he saw in 2019 and hopes the returning players build on those things for 2020.

“We just need to fix the things we’re lacking offensively,” he said. “We just need to get better at what we’re doing well.”