HUDSON — Brunswick baseball players were concerned about their goal of reaching The Big Dance. Getting to prom on time was not a concern.
In a rare pre-prom event, the sixth-seeded Blue Devils stayed alive in the postseason by downing ninth-seeded Twinsburg 7-1 Friday in a windy and cold Hudson Division I District semifinal.
Brunswick (20-8), which will be appearing in its third straight district final, will face second-seeded Hudson at 2 p.m. today at The Ballpark at Hudson. Twinsburg finished 20-10.
“We were way more focused on the baseball game than prom,” said shortstop Kyle Michalik, one of 10 seniors on Brunswick’s roster. “This was our No. 1 priority. Prom was the last thing on our mind.”
Waiting-to-be-picked-up dates for the 6 p.m. event at La Centre in Westlake might not have been thrilled to hear that, but the Blue Devils’ efficiency against Twinsburg gave them a decent chance of arriving only fashionably late for prom.
The game was originally slated to be played at 4:30 p.m. Thursday, but was rained out and rescheduled for 2 p.m. Friday. After Brunswick banged out 14 hits and senior left-hander Gerry Salisbury (5-3) gave up just four, the 6½-inning affair was over at 3:54 p.m.
A quick trip home and a shower later, many of the Blue Devils were off to the dance knowing they needed just three more victories to reach The Big Dance — a.k.a. the state tournament.
“We told all the seniors to take care of business first, then go have fun at prom,” Salisbury said. “This game came first.”
The fast-working Salisbury certainly did his part, holding the Tigers to four hits while walking three and striking out six. The run he gave up was unearned thanks to his errant pickoff throw, which allowed Jalen Washington to move up a base in the second inning. Washington eventually scored on a Brady Haba sacrifice fly to give Twinsburg a very brief lead.
“I didn’t have my best stuff,” said Salisbury, who is being recruited by several D-I colleges. “I was struggling to find my fastball, but I battled through it.”
When Salisbury really needed to make quality pitches, he did.
With runners on first and third and one out in the third, he came back from a 3-1 count to strike out No. 3 hitter Nick Jaworski swinging. He then retired Washington on what appeared to be a blast to left, but ended up being a simple can of corn when the ball got caught in a stiff wind.
The Tigers loaded the bases with two outs in the sixth on Brunswick’s third error and a pair of singles, but Salisbury struck out No. 8 hitter Dylan Gugliotta swinging to end the threat. The southpaw then retired the side in order in the seventh.
“He only gave up one run and that was probably his worst outing of the year,” Blue Devils coach Todd Winston said. “Considering it was 43 degrees and windy, I tip my hat to the kid. He went out and bulldogged it.”
Brunswick’s offense took care of the rest, scoring three unearned runs in the second on three hits and a two-out, double error (fielding and throwing) by Twinsburg third baseman Cooper Rea. The Blue Devils added two more runs in the third and single tallies in the fourth and fifth.
Brunswick’s first 12 hits were singles. Four never left the infield, as Michalik bunted for a hit twice and Ryan Kuntz did so once, while Joey Verbiak reached on a slow-rolling grounder.
Michalik got the only extra-base hit of the game, a blast to deep left-center in the fifth that scored Kyle Burson and capped a 3-for-4 day for the Ohio State recruit.
Eight of the nine players in Brunswick’s lineup had at least one hit, with Burson, Corey Welsh, Gary Clift Jr. and Verbiak getting two.
“These guys owed me a couple,” Salisbury said with a smile. “They like to put up one-run performances when I pitch. I’m really happy they swung the bats like they did today.”
Jaworski (4-2), who went the distance in a 1-0 sectional final victory over third-seeded Walsh Jesuit, lasted just three innings. Only two of the five runs he surrendered were earned, but the right-hander gave up eight hits and walked a batter.
After adding six more hits and two more runs against Washington, the Blue Devils were still dancing — and off to prom.
“This was fun,” Salisbury said. “Now we can go have some more.”
Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.
Brunswick 7, Twinsburg 1
Hudson Division I District Semifinal
TWINSBURG 010 000 0 — 1 4 2
BRUNSWICK 032 110 x — 7 14 3
WP — Gerry Salisbury (5-3) 7 innings, 0 earned runs, 3 walks, 6 strikeouts. LP — Nick Jaworski (4-2) 3 innings, 8 hits, 5 runs, 2 earned, walk, strikeout. Twinsburg (20-10). Brunswick (20-8) — Kyle Michalik 2 singles, double, RBI; Kyle Burson 2 singles, run, RBI; Corey Welsh 2 singles; Gary Clift Jr. 2 singles, walk, 2 runs, RBI; Joey Verbiak 2 singles, run, RBI.