MACEDONIA — In a matchup pitting great pitching vs. great hitting Thursday, the hitting won out.
Medina’s ace pitching staff couldn’t stop Nordonia’s efficient bats in an exhausting 7-5 decision in Hudson Division I Sectional semifinal action.
The fourth-seeded Knights (21-7) advance to host No. 5 Highland (20-8) today.
Nordonia starter Billy Smith kept the Bees (14-12) off-balance — not through sheer power, but rather a bizarre series of potent curveballs and wild pitches.
Over the first four innings, Medina managed seven runners without a hit, relying on four hit by pitches, two walks and an error. Unfortunately for the Bees, seven strikeouts were interspersed, three coming on called third strikes.
“(Smith) threw great breaking balls and he threw hard,” Medina coach Nick Kaplack said. “A lot of times when the pitcher sprays balls, it’s hard to hit.”
Bees starter Mike Ellenbest (4-1) was equally effective, as the senior pitched three scoreless innings before succumbing to a rough fourth in which errors led to a three-run deficit, with Smith helping his own cause with a three-run double.
Smith entered the fifth inning having already thrown 75 pitches. The Bees took advantage of the fatigue and opened up a five-run inning. The bottom of the lineup came alive, sparked by a two-run double by Brent Lary followed by a two-out, two-run single by third baseman Patrick Beal.
The Knights (21-7) countered with a two-run fifth to knot the score at 5.
Medina struggled the rest of the way, going scoreless in the last two innings, while Nordonia kept its bats alive with four more hits and the winning runs in the sixth off Andrew Sokolowski (2-2) and Austin Havekost.
“Nordonia is a very good hitting team, and we’re a very good pitching team,” Kaplack said. “The three guys I pitched today have a combined ERA below 2. They definitely earned their hits. They definitely won this game today.”
Knights coach Drew Hoisington echoed the praise of the Medina pitchers.
“Our guys battled against three really good pitchers,” he said. “Heck, we went 0-for-9 on sacrifice bunts. It honestly seemed like whoever had the last at-bat was going to win.”
The Bees were led by 10 seniors who left a positive mark on the program, which won a quad-share of the talented Northeast Ohio Conference River Division.
“I’m so proud of those guys,” Kaplack said. “They’ve fought like heck. They went 2-8 in the conference last year as juniors, and of course this year they won a share of the NOC (River). We beat every team in the (River), of which three of them are ranked (in the state).
“They keep moving the program along, so I’ll miss every one of these guys. They’ve become like family.”
The Bees’ extended “family” was on hand, as past team members Matt Ellenbest, Dan Sokolowski, Scott Sency, Nick Catanzarito, Rutger Luebke, John Luebke (’82), and Scott McGurk (’84) attended the game.
Contact Richard Doyle at email@example.com.