AKRON — Every baseball player knows the feeling.
There are days when solid effort driven by heart is overmatched by near-perfection. Fourth-seeded Buckeye readily acknowledged this following Monday’s 4-1 loss to top-seeded Hoban in the Akron Division II District semifinals.
The Knights (17-10), who finished second to D-I Walsh Jesuit in the rugged North Coast League Blue Division, advance to face Tallmadge for today’s championship at Summit Lake’s George Sisler Field.
“I can’t complain,” said Bucks third baseman Joe Bruening, who had two of his team’s three hits. “I played my heart out and (my teammates) all showed up, too.
“You have to tip your hat to (Hoban). All together, they outplayed us. I can’t take that away from them.”
Patriot Athletic Conference Stars Division champion Buckeye (19-8) was hitless against starter Travis Pero (4-2) until the fifth inning and trailed 4-0 before bringing the tying run to the plate in the seventh.
Kent State recruit Eli Kraus (7-1, 1.33 ERA) and a steady defense did their best to keep the Bucks alive. The left-handed Kraus allowed two runs on six singles before a pair of unearned insurance runs crossed home in the seventh.
Hoban simply made all the plays it needed too, scoring three runs with two outs and another on a one-out sacrifice fly. The Knights also played errorless defense, highlighted by catcher Anthony Osmun gunning down would-be base stealers in the first, third and fourth innings.
“You can’t be mad, and you can’t blame the umps,” Bruening said. “That’s baseball. They beat us fair and square.”
Trailing 4-0 and being one-hit by Pero heading into the seventh, Buckeye continued its season-long theme of grinding until the last pitch.
Following a flyout by Scott Cloudy, Bruening jumped all over a 2-0 fastball and short-hopped the left-field fence for a triple and later scored on a Nico Galizio groundout. Kyle Friel then singled and Nick Duliba walked, giving way for sophomore Dom Hinton to relieve Pero.
Buckeye countered by pinch-hitting Tyler Sovizral, but Hinton won the battle with a swinging strikeout on a 2-2 pitch.
“We’ve played as a team all year,” Kraus said. “Even if we’re down in the seventh inning, we’ve found a way to come back. Obviously, today (a loss) happened. It’s baseball.
“We played well and they played well, too,” he added. “You can’t blame anyone.”
Hoban wasted little time getting on the board, as No. 2 hitter Cody Hargett singled and was brought around on an RBI shot up the middle by Jordan Burns.
Osmun took center stage from that point. After nabbing Vinnie Galizio earlier in the game, the senior got Nick Duliba at second on a bang-bang play in the third and Galizio again in the fourth with a snap throw to first that eventually resulted in Galizio, one of the Bucks’ hottest hitters over the last week-plus, being tagged out at second.
The defensive momentum allowed Pero to pound the strike zone. Bruening missed a home run roughly 20 feet foul in the fifth, but responded with a bullet to the left-center gap later in the at-bat. The problem was Hoban’s defense negated him quickly, as third baseman Austin Farber tagged out Bruening heading to third on a Friel grounder.
The Knights then got to Kraus, who cruised during the second, third and fourth innings by throwing curveballs consistently for strikes. Back-to-back singles by Aaron Cain and Hargett and a Farber sacrifice fly pushed across a run in the fifth.
Hoban’s insurance runs in the seventh were highlighted by a Brennan Bell RBI double that scored Jordan Burns, who had reached on a Bruening throwing error. The other run scored when Galizio’s two-out throw from deep in the hole was high to first.
“Honestly, (this season) meant the world because this is our last year together as a unit,” Bruening said.
Contact Albert Grindle at (330) 721-4043 or firstname.lastname@example.org.