By RICH GIBSON
For The Intelligencer
CAMBRIDGE - St. Clairsville's Division III Sectional debut exceeded all expectations for skipper Tom Sliva and his Red Devils.
Matched against the tournament's third-seeded Fort Frye Cadets, St. C. made short work of Sonny Bidwell's ball club, prevailing by 11-1 in six innings.
Tuesday's victory returns the Red Devils (16-6) to Don Coss Field for a Friday (5 p.m.) encounter vs. this afternoon's Bellaire-Monroe Central survivor.
Bidwell could not have envisioned a more disappointing bottom of the first inning for Cadet starter Spencer Lang, who issued walks to the first three batters he faced.
A pitching change ensued and after reliever Caden Brooker recorded an out, St. C. senior Corey Kotopka crashed a bases-clearing, three-run triple to deep center field.
When third baseman Luke Smith followed with an opposite-field double to right, Kotopka trotted home and it was 4-0.
The Devils had time for one more big blow - this one coming from junior catcher Riley Carlton whose gap-shot double plated Smith to make it 5-0.
"I was very happy with our at-bats in that first inning," Sliva said. "We want our guys to be aggressive at the plate but selective at the same time. Obviously, scoring five runs in the first made it much easier on (starting pitcher) Sammy Vincenzo."
St. C.'s southpaw ace barely worked up a sweat during three no-hit innings of work. The Potomac State Junior College-bound lefty finished with six strikeouts and four walks.
Sliva went to Matt Kinnick, who worked the final three frames. The righthander recorded two strikeouts.
St. Clairsville, meanwhile, added to its early lead, scoring two more times in the second inning.
Vincenzo and Ben Evick were aboard before Kinnick legged out an infield hit. Evick raced home on a wild pitch while Vincenzo scored the result of a D.J. Busby ground ball.
In the St. C. fourth, Kinnick's line drive hit to left plated Evick and Vincenzo. Kotopka's RBI base rap scored Busby and it was 9-1.
Fort Frye mustered a pair of fourth-inning hits for its only run of the afternoon before St. C. ended it in the sixth.
Kinnick singled and moved to third on Kotopka's third hit. Another wild pitch sent Kinnick home for the final run.
"I thought we came in focused," Sliva said. "Under no circumstances did we expect to win this game by 10 runs. As usual, Fort Frye has an excellent program. We just executed very well at the right times."
Kotopka's three-hit, four RBI performance paced the victory. Kinnick connected for three singles. Evick was on base four times and scored three runs.