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Tonkovich sharp as St. Clairsville blanks Cambridge, 2-0

Photo/KRISTIN MAZGAJ ST. CLAIRSVILLE pitcher Tyler Tonkovich works to the plate during Saturday's OVAC Class 4A semifinal against Cambridge.

       ST. CLAIRSVILLE – Veteran St. Clairsville baseball coach Tom Sliva was hoping for three solid innings from his ace.

       What the Hall of Fame mentor received was a masterpiece from Tyler Tonkovich.

      The senior dandy hurled a complete-game gem, helping the Red Devils pocket a 2-0 OVAC 4A semifinal win over a strong Cambridge squad Saturday afternoon at Memorial Park. St. C. now advances to the title game against Weir, which defeated Indian Creek in the other semi.

        Tonkovich needed just 88 pitches to blank the Bobcats. He struck out seven, walked none and yielded just four hits, one coming on a fly ball lost in the sun.

      Impressive as his mound performance was, it takes on even added luster. Tonkovich is just returning from a tough battle with Covid.

      “I never would have expected Tyler could have pitched as well as he did today. Earlier in the week, he could barely pitch before becoming exhausted,” Silva said. “I went into the game thinking if we could get three good innings from Tyler than we would piece meal it with the rest of our staff.

        “This just shows you what type of character young man Tyler is and what a great competitor he is,” he continued. “I am at a loss for words to truly describe what he did today. He showed a lot of guts.”

        Tonkovich was in trouble just twice, those coming in the fourth and seventh innings.

        With one out in the fourth, Blaine Brumfield delivered a single for Cambridge. However, he was gunned down trying to steal second base by St. Clairsville catcher Marcus Bush. Brock Valentine cracked a double and Jake Valentine reached on an error, placing runners on the corners. Tonkovich ended the threat by inducing a groundout.

            Cambridge staged one last effort to score in the final frame. With two outs, Angelo Rocco launched a fly ball to left that fell for a single after it was lost in the sun. An error on a ground ball, placed runners at first and second. Tonkovich, however, ended matters by fielding a popup, dropping the curtain on his superb performance.

         “I felt much better today. I felt good,” Tonkovich offered. “But it is not about me. It was a nice team win and we get to play for another OVAC championship.”

         Sophomore Jake Valentine was also impressive on the hill for the Bobcats. He fanned four, walked three and allowed just three hits.

         St. Clairsville pushed across both of its runs in the third inning.

          Bush reached on an error and moved to second on a Jaren Starks’ bunt. Freshman dandy Brylen Blomquist followed with a single before Tonkovich walked to load the bases. Senior slugger Will Balgo singled, driving in Bush and Blomquist.

         “I am happy for the kids, They work hard and put a lot of time in. They have had to deal a lot with the Covid situation,” Silva said. “Give Will credit. He came through with a big hit. Cambridge has a nice team and Valentine pitched really well.

        “Playing for an OVAC championship is always exciting. It is one of our goals going into the season,” he added. “I am proud of this team. We have a good group of young men.”

         St. Clairsville improved to 12-6 while Cambridge slipped to 11-7. The two teams split in the regular season.

         “We ran into an excellent pitcher today. Tonkovich was really impressive,” Cambridge coach Jamal Lowery said. “One inning and a couple of errors hurt us. I couldn’t ask for a better pitching effort than Jake gave us today.

       Silva was honored after the game. He was presented a plaque for recently reaching the 400-win plateau, encompassing his success at both St. John Central and St. Clairsville.

Cambridge    000 000 0 – 0 4 1

St. Clairsville 002 000 X – 2 3 3

BATTERIES: Valentine (lp 4K, 3BB) and Rogers. Bond S; Brumfield S; B. Valentine D; Rocco S.

Tonkovich (wp 7K, 0BB) and Bush. Balgo S, 2RBI; Blomquist S; Sefsick S.

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