Kirtland routs Elyria Catholic, reaches regional
Coach Luke Smrdel’s message headed into Kirtland’s Division III Lakewood District final against Elyria Catholic May 17 was succinct and resolute.
“If you guys go out and play your game,” Smrdel told the Hornets, “you’re better than any team we play.”
Little else needed said. The Hornets rebounded from the 2017 Lakewood District final, when Kirtland was run-ruled by Lutheran West.
After three innings against Elyria Catholic, proceedings appeared to mimic last year’s. Kirtland faced a five-run deficit.
The Hornets didn’t fold and, this time, laid a beatdown of their own. Kirtland scored 10 runs in the fourth inning, added five in the fifth and defeated the Panthers, 15-7, to advance the regional level.
“They never gave up and in the fourth inning, our bats went crazy,” Smrdel said. “It was unbelievable.”
Kirtland advances to a Massillon Regional semifinal May 24 against Grand Valley at Massillon Washington.
Mike Zeuli, Ryan Lipps and Tyler McCrory recorded three-hit games for the Hornets. McCrory drove in four runs while Lipps and Zeuli added three RBI apiece. The Hornets’ victory also marked Smrdel’s 100th win with the program.
Elyria Catholic held the Hornets hitless in the first two innings and built a 5-0 lead by the end of the third.
Kirtland proceeded to send 15 batters to the plate in the fourth inning, who rapped out seven hits and drew six walks. Luke Potosky put the Hornets on the board with a RBI single, McCrory followed with a two-run single and Joey Mongelluzzi’s two-run single tied the score, 5-5.
Zeuli gave Kirtland its first lead with a two-run double to left, Lipps plated Seann McGill with a single, Potosky drew a basesloaded walk, Zeuli scored on a wild pitch and Tyler Bratton walked with the bases loaded to score Kirtland’s 10th run of the fourth.
The Hornets ensured their district title with a five-run fifth. Zeuli knocked an RBI single, Lipps scored two with a double and McCrory added a two-run double to give Kirtland a 15-5 edge and shun any lingering memory of last year’s defeat.
“They don’t want something like that to ever happen again and they know what it’s like,” Smrdel said. “Today, it really showed that being on the other side’s great. Hopefully we carry that to regionals.”