St. Clairsville rallies past Martins Ferry
MARTINS FERRY — Two players who weren’t in St. Clairsville’s starting lineup came up huge Monday when they were inserted into Monday’s game with Martins Ferry. Luke Jozwiak and Caleb Cook, both left-handed pinch-hitters, were key factors in the Red Devils’ 2-1 come-from-behind victory high atop the Purple City.
Trailing 1-0 with one out in the top of the sixth inning, Jozwiak sent a seeing-eye single through the left side of the infield. He was replaced on the basepaths as Mason Myers, whom he had hit for, re-entered. Drew Sefsick, St. Clairsville’s No. 8 hitter, lined a 2-1 pitch from hard-luck loser Colby Shriver that found chalk down the leftfield line as Myers chugged all the way around without a throw to even things. Cook then sliced a 1-2 pitch to left that was deep enough to plate Sefsick with the eventual game-winner.
“I just told our team that I can’t say enough about the jobs Luke (Jozwiak) and Caleb (Cook) did in pinch-hit roles,” veteran St. Clairsville (2-2) head coach Tom Sliva said. “Luke started the inning with a single and Caleb puts the ball in play with two strikes. Those were both outstanding jobs.
“There are 13 of us (on the roster) and we talked about everyone being a part of this team,” Sliva added. “That’s what happened today.”
The win came despite leaving 11 runners on base, including the bases-loaded in the first, fourth and seventh innings.
“We feel like we’ve left on more than some small town’s population,” Sliva said of the stranded runners. “We’ve done it in every game so far, but it (the bats) will come around. We’ve got a lot of young guys that are playing varsity ball for the first time and they have seen some guys pitching to them and not just throwing.”
All the while, senior Tyler Tonkovich was keeping the Purple Riders (3-1) at bay. He retired nine of the first 10 batters he faced and threw 107 pitches, with 75 being strikes.
“How can you ask for a better outing than that,” Sliva said of Tonkovich’s complete-game effort. “He was in the 90s (pitches thrown) and we asked him (in the 7th) if he wanted the ball, and he said ‘yes.’ That’s the type of athlete he is.”
The hard-throwing righty finished with seven strikeouts and just two walks. He scattered six hits and got himself out of a bases-loaded, one-out situation in the fourth with back-to-back punchouts.
He also stranded a pair in the fifth after yielding the lone run on Connor Probst’s sacrifice fly to center that drove in Kameron Hughes.
“Pitching in the (Division II) state semifinals two years ago really gave Tyler a lot of confidence,” Sliva noted. “He’s a real gutsy kid. He’s a battler. He really competes every time he steps between the lines.”
Shriver fanned six, walked five, hit a pair and gave up five hits. He threw 122 pitches with 71 strikes.
“That was two really good teams … two really good pitchers,” Martins Ferry head coach Anthony Reasbeck said. “There was a Texas bleeder … I don’t know how that happened and they hit the (leftfield) line. It that doiesn’t happen we win 1-0, but it did and it will. That’s baseball.
“It will happen for us some time but I know one thing, we are a better team than we were three hours ago,” Reasbeck continued. “I needed to see how we would react to adversity. We’re a better team right now because of the way we competed today.”
Braylon Blomquist led St. Clairsville with a single and double.
Shriver had a single and double.
St. Clairsville hosts Steubenville today at Memorial Park before welcoming the Purple Riders on Wednesday.