STRATTANVILLE — The old saying that good pitching beats good hitting is true, except when both pitchers are going well an addition to that saying would be that good defense can overcome good hitting.
That was the case for the Clarion-Limestone Lions baseball team, which made several stellar plays on defense while Moniteau made two errors, one of them leading to the only run scored in the game as the Lions blanked the Warriors last Wednesday at the C-L Sports Complex.
The win clinched the KSAC championship for the Lions, their first since 2011 and fourth in program history.
“I’m proud of the guys,” said C-L head coach Todd Smith, whose team improved to 11-3. “It’s always about the players. You saw the plays they were making out there.”
The Lions had their home game with Cranberry last Friday rained out and canceled. Tuesday’s trip to A-C Valley was postponed, leaving the Lions with a game at Redbank Valley to close out the regular season.
The District 9 Class 1A playoffs begin next week and it appears to be at least a seven-team bracket with the Lions landing somewhere in the top three seeds.
DuBois Central Catholic (14-2) and Otto-Eldred (14-4) have similar records as the Lions with Elk County Catholic (11-6) nearby. So it’ll be a quarterfinal game on Tuesday at home against probably North Clarion or Port Allegany.
Pairings will be announced most likely Thursday night.
Last week, Lions ace Hayden Callen and Moniteau’s Hunter Fitzingo each pitched well enough to earn the victory with each only allowing one hit. Callen gave up the one hit while walking four and striking out eight. Fitzingo also allowed just one hit with no walks, but he did hit one batter while also striking out 13.
The game’s only run of the game came in the second inning. After two outs, Ben Smith was hit by a pitch. Cam Hankey hit a ball into the hole at shortstop where Gage Neal made a sliding stop, but he couldn’t get a strong throw off to first, allowing Hankey to reach on the infield single.
On the play Smith advanced to third where he just slid under a strong relay throw from first baseman Tyler McFadden. Two pitches later, catcher Jared Lominski attempted to pick off Smith at third, but his throw sailed into left field allowing Smith to score.
“We kind of took a big risk in getting Ben to third,” said Smith. “The throw was a little weak to first so called for Ben to come to third and it turned out to be a much closer play than I had hoped. We then got the bad throw to third which allowed him to score.”
After the second inning Fitzingo then retired 12 of the last 13 batters he faced as the Lions only got one more baserunner when Ian Larson reached on an error in the fourth inning.
“You have to tip your hat to Fitzingo as he’s probably the best pitcher we faced all season,” said Smith.
Callen retired 12 of the first 13 batters he faced, including 10 in a row after a walk to Neal in the first inning. McFadden reached on an infield single to lead off the fifth inning. He stole second. After a two out walk, Callen got the ninth batter in the order Lee DeMatteis to ground out to end the inning.
“I knew it was going to be a tough game today,” said Callen. “I texted my good friend Cal German from Clarion to try and get some type of scouting report on them. He told me they had a good hitting team. I knew I had to come out and pitch my hardest.”
In the top of the sixth inning, Fitzingo led off with a walk. He stole second. After one out, catcher Drew Beichner threw to shortstop Bryson Huwar who then threw the ball to third baseman Colby Himes who ran down and tagged Fitzingo for the second out. Another flyout to right field ended the inning.
“We work on those types of plays a lot,” said Smith. “Drew noticed he was getting pretty far off of second base so he made a throw and Colby made a great athletic play to run him down to get the out. That was a really good play for us and it really gave our guys and even bigger lift.”
Callen then retired the side in order in the seventh to end the game.
“Hayden threw a heckuva game today,” said Smith. “We made several nice plays behind him so all the credit goes to all these players. We had a nice catch by Bryson, Drew called a great game behind the plate, and David Wiles made several nice catches in right field which isn’t easy with the way the wind blows at this field.”