STEUBENVILLE - Cadiz Post 34 manager Brandt Mazeroski and standout pitcher Josh Kernik had never experienced a victory in the opening round of the 8th annual Carl "Dutch" Nordenger Memorial District 10 American Legion Tournament.
That all changed Monday afternoon as Kernik, the lone college player on Mazeroski's youthful, but talented, squad put forth a gut-check effort as Cadiz (13-16) outscored Coshocton, 10-7, at sun-baked Vaccaro Field.
"It was a hard game and I had a great defense behind me," Kernik, the Shadyside High product, said after his 133-pitch (81 strikes) effort in the 90-degree heat. "The guys also picked me up with the bats. I couldn't have asked for a better team effort behind me."
Kernik, who played some as a freshman at Wheeling Jesuit University last season, didn't have his best stuff, but he got the job done. The righthander struck out just one and walked four. He scattered 10 hits and plunked four batters.
"It feels good," he said of collecting an opening-round victory. "We have never done that before in my two years."
Mazeroski also had a lot of praise for his mound ace.
"He's our work horse and has been for three years now," he said. "In the last inning, I asked him how he was doing and he said, 'coach don't take me out unless you have to.'"
After his Post 34 teammates staked him to a 10-7 lead with three runs in the top of the eighth and one in the ninth, Kernik did the rest.
However, there were some nervous times as he hit the first batter in the bottom of the ninth. A groundout moved that runner to second, but a bouncer to DJ Busby at short resulted in a fielder's choice as the runner was caught going to third. A flyout to center ended the game.
"I wanted to finish the game strong for my teammates because they were playing hard behind me all day," Kernik said.
Tied at 6-6 after seven innings, Cadiz loaded the bases with no outs in the eighth. A weird fielder's choice resulted in the first out as Nick Patrone's blooper between the mound and the plate fell to the ground, but an alert Coshocton (17-22) third baseman Vayden Wood scooped up the ball and stepped on home plate for the force.
Spencer Badia, a junior-to-be at Bellaire, drilled a 1-1 pitch back up the middle to plate two runs, and Rashaen Mitchell's groundout made it 9-6.
The Cherokees got one run back in the bottom of the eighth, but Chase Hopkins laced a triple to the gap in right-center leading off the ninth. He raced home after ball four to Nick Pelegreen got away from the catcher, making it 10-7.
"Never in my first two years have we won our first game of the tournament," an elated Mazeroski said. "This feels really good, but I've been telling the kids all summer that when we hit the ball like we did (Monday), and play good defense, we are that good of a team.
"When you get to the district, every team is good, but we are capable of surprising some people."
Post 34 recorded 16 hits and were led by leadoff-hitter Busby with four singles and an RBI. Pelegreen, a Harrison Central senior-to-be, cracked three one-base knocks and drove in a run. Patrone, Badia, Mitchell and Hopkins all had a pair of safeties, with Badia and Mitchell evenly splitting four ribbies. Kernik helped his own cause with a single and three runs scored.
Cadiz meets Steubenville today at 5, also at Vaccaro Field. Post 33 defeated Richmond 6-2 in the nightcap Monday.
Wayne County 9
TORONTO - Wayne County's Brodie Arnette couldn't have picked a better time to deliver his only hit in Monday's game against Post 86.
A strikeout victim in his two previous plate appearances, the second baseman launched the home half of the eighth when he lined a shot to center and hustled his way to a double. He would score what proved to be the game-winning run one batter later as Jarod Detweiler laced a two-bagger to center. Brock Kline's run-scoring single plated the insurance tally as the Gunslingers held off Toronto.