COLE CAMP — A six-inning, seven-strikeout performance from Sacred Heart’s Kolin Brace and a 4 2-3 inning, nine-strikeout outing from Tipton’s Logan Hirst in the semifinals on Monday have the Gremlins and Cardinals in the final of the Kaysinger Conference baseball tournament.
The Gremlins (14-0) rallied to beat Green Ridge 4-2 while Tipton beat Smithton in the other semifinal 8-1.
Green Ridge (8-6) jumped in front of Sacred Heart with two runs in the top of the first. Conner Dillon blooped a single to right to score Tom Dove from third, and Justin McCarthy followed with an RBI double.
“We were really aggressive in that first inning,” said Green Ridge coach Jason Ollison. “That’s the key to us is we have to be aggressive early in the counts. When we play loose and hit loose like that, we’re a pretty decent team.”
After allowing three hits in the first inning, Brace settled down. He walked the leadoff hitter in the second before retiring three in a row, worked a one-two-three third inning, worked around a one-out single in the fourth, worked around an error in the fifth and got help from his defense with a double play in the sixth.
“My curveball started working later,” Brace said. “The first two innings it didn’t work well.”
Green Ridge starter Zac Callahan shut down Sacred Heart in the first two innings, as the first seven Gremlins to come to the plate either grounded out to Dillon at shortstop or flew out to Cole Dove in right.
“He’s a kid that hasn’t been asked to pitch a lot,” Ollison said. “When he transferred out to us (from Smith-Cotton), we’re asking just about anybody to pitch. He goes out there and he battles and he works hard.”
The Gremlins eventually got to Callahan in the third. After Brace reached on an error, courtesy runner Cal Racy scored on a wild pitch. Singles by Ben Smeltzer and Caleb Tanguay followed to bring in two more runs.
Sacred Heart added an insurance run in the fourth when Brace flew out to left, scoring Garrett Strange from third.
The two-run lead held up as Tanguay came on to work the seventh inning and, after walking a batter with one out, struck out the next and induced a grounder to end the game.
In the second semifinal, Tipton’s Hirst was perfect through the first eight Smithton batters he faced, at one point striking out six in a row. After hitting Smithton pitcher Trenton White, Hirst got out of the jam with another strikeout.
“The fastball was working really well,” he said. “They were having a hard time, and my curveballs weren’t working so I just kept with the fastballs.”
Hirst issued a two-out walk in the fourth and again got a strikeout to end the threat. Smithton broke up his no-hit bid with one out in the fifth when Jordan Moore lined a single to left.
“I was really happy with Logan,” said Tipton coach Andy Turner. “He’s been battling an ankle injury so for him to come out and throw as well as he did and as hard as he did was really big for us to control their offense.”
Hirst helped his own cause at the plate, going 3 for 3, scoring three runs and driving in two.
“I was just trying to watch the ball as best as I can,” he said. “I’ve been having a hard time watching the ball and it worked out.”
On the mound for Smithton, White had a solid game limiting Tipton’s offense in the first three innings before the Cardinals finally broke through with five in the fourth. White then set them down in order in the fifth and worked around a pair of singles in the sixth.
“We had a couple of situations where we had two outs and just needed a play and didn’t make it,” said Smithton coach Rich Pond. “I thought (White) pitched an excellent game.”
Tipton got on the board in the first when a David Richardson single scored Hirst. The Cardinals added another in the second on a Bryce Crowe single to score Dylan Tate. In the third, Grant Huhmann singled to score Hirst.
Tipton broke through in the fourth, batting around and bringing home five. With two outs and two men in scoring position, Hirst singled to drive home Crowe and Luke Mercer. Hirst scored on a single by Richardson, andHuhmann brought home two runs with a single to right.
Smithton got on the board in the seventh as Preston McMullen scored on a wild pitch.
Tipton (11-4) will face Sacred Heart in the conference championship game at 7 p.m. Thursday at Liberty Park.
Smithton (7-5) will face Green Ridge at 4 p.m. Thursday at Liberty Park.