BRUNSWICK — Depending on the perspective, the Cloverleaf baseball team’s lack of fielding or Brunswick’s clutch hitting determined the outcome of their Hudson Division I Sectional semifinal Thursday.
No matter which way it’s dissected, the sixth-seeded Blue Devils took down the Colts 10-0 in six innings.
Brunswick (18-8), which is 4-0 wearing special neon green jerseys in honor of late classmate Cora Flemming, advances to play at top-seeded Wadsworth (22-4) today at A.C. Field. The Grizzlies won the first matchup 2-1 on April 26.
“We’ve been on a roll lately,” said third baseman Corey Welsh, who joked the Blue Devils finally gave winning pitcher Gerry Salisbury significant run support. “Ever since the whole Cora thing, we’ve been wearing these jerseys every game. We’re playing for her right now, so we’re pretty excited.
“We wanted (Wadsworth) again, for sure,” he continued. “We want to get them this time.”
All nine Brunswick batters reached base, with Kyle Burson (2-for-4, 2 runs), Welsh (3-for-3, 2 runs) and Salisbury (3-for-4, 2 runs) compiling multihit afternoons against Colts ace Jayson Sykora (2-6).
While Cloverleaf (4-19) made two mental miscues in the outfield to keep the second and third innings alive, the Blue Devils still had to capitalize.
That’s when Nos. 6-9 hitters Gary Clift Jr., Brian Lees, Joey Verbiak and Ryan Kuntz shined brightest, as the quartet combined to go 4-for-8 with five RBIs, including two on sacrifice flies.
“Coach (Todd Winston) always talks about how 7-8-9 is a real big part of the order,” Clift said. “One through six is important, but 7-8-9 is what wins games. We came to play today and got a win out of it.”
Brunswick took a 5-0 lead that could have never happened. A one-out fly ball in the second inning off the bat of Lees turned into a double when miscommunication between Cloverleaf outfielders let it drop to the grass. Verbiak followed with a sacrifice fly that would have been the third out, and Kuntz came through with an RBI single to right.
The Blue Devils again made the Colts pay in the third after Salisbury hit a one-out fly ball to left that was lost in the sun. Clift ripped a bases-loaded single to right that scored a pair before another run came around on an error.
Though four of the runs were technically earned, Cloverleaf could have entered the fourth in a scoreless game. Instead, the 5-0 hole ultimately made a tough-luck loser out of Sykora, who at one point threw just three balls over a 13-batter stretch.
“We couldn’t execute those couple plays in the outfield,” Colts coach Josh Boggs said. “It definitely put us in a hole a little bit. It didn’t get us down, but it definitely put us in a spot where we didn’t want to be.”
Brunswick added two runs in the fifth on consecutive sacrifice flies by Kyle Wheeler and Clift. The Blue Devils ended the game in the sixth on an RBI double by Burson and back-to-back RBI singles from Welsh and Salisbury.
“Despite the score being 10-0, I thought we played a very hard game, a very intense game,” Boggs said. “Our guys were very emotionally attached and involved in that game. I really felt like we had a chance to win before we played, and I even felt like we had a chance to win when it was 5-0.”
The rest of the day belonged to Salisbury (4-3, 2.02 ERA), who tossed his second consecutive shutout.
The All-Gazette selection finished with 10 strikeouts, including five over the first two innings in front of scouts from Ohio University and Western Michigan. A double by Tyler Hissom, a single by Devin Cunningham and a bunt by Kenny Wells accounted for the three hits, while Hissom was the only runner to reach second base.
“Gerry did an excellent job,” Clift said. “I’ve always been Gerry’s No. 1 fan. We’ve got a great defense behind him, but he just really came through today.”
Former Brunswick standout basketball player Pat Forsythe was in attendance. The 6-foot-11 center recently completed his redshirt freshman season for Mid-American Conference power Akron.
• Salisbury is 6-for-8 over his last two games, pushing his season average to a team-best .423.
Contact Albert Grindle at (330) 721-4043 or firstname.lastname@example.org.