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The team that couldn’t seem to hit suddenly is, and the timing couldn’t be better for Southview.
The Cougars (17-9) jumped out early on defending Division I district baseball champion St. Francis de Sales on Saturday at Mercy Field and rolled to an 8-3 victory in a district final.
Southview junior left-handed pitcher Tyler Stambaugh gave the Cougars their third straight solid start in the tourney, yielding just three hits and one run to the Knights before exiting after six innings on top 8-1.
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“We did enough to get it done,” said Southview coach Ed Mouch, who also guided the Cougars to their first regional in 2010. “That’s been the big thing the last few games; we’ve actually swung the bats a lot better. Hopefully we keep doing that because, with our pitching and defense, we’re a pretty good team.”
The Cougars will face Northern Lakes League foe Anthony Wayne in a regional semifinal Thursday at 5 p.m. at Bowling Green’s Steller Field. The Generals beat Southview 3-2 and 1-0 in their two NLL games this season.
Stambaugh, who threw just 39 of his 75 pitches for strikes, was put on a pitch count by Mouch after not throwing for two weeks.
He was less than sharp, but remained efficient against this St. Francis team, which had mercy-ruled Southview 11-1 in a non-league regular-season game on April 19.
“We worked really hard in the off-season to get here, we expected to be here, and winning this really feels great,” Stambaugh said. “Our bats really hadn’t been hot all year, but they’re starting to come around now. So, everything’s on full-go right now.”
Stambaugh’s mound work followed his team’s gems thrown by teammate Alexander Theiss in a 1-0 sectional final victory over Start last week, and a 2-1 upset of top-seeded St. John’s Jesuit on Thursday.
He got the run support he needed in the first two innings after St. Francis had grabbed a 1-0 lead in the top of the first.
Tre Simms led off with a single to left, Nick Vlasnik bunted him to second, and Colin Boerst drew a walk. After Griffin McDonald’s single to left drove Simms home, Knights starter Casey Johnson’s balk sent Boerst home from third for a 2-1 lead.
The Cougars then sent 11 batters to the plate against Johnson and Knight relievers Chris Gill and Jake Lang in the second.
Nate Grady drew a one-out walk, and Spencer Perry and Simms followed with singles to load the bases. Johnson’s mound stint ended after he hit Vlasnik on the helmet with a pitch to force home a run.
Gill relieved and gave up an RBI single to Boerst, then walked McDonald to force in another run.
“When we played St. Francis earlier in the season they beat us pretty badly, so we wanted to make a statement that we could beat them,” McDonald said. “When we played St. John’s on Thursday our bats got hot, and it kept going today.”
Lang entered the game and walked Stambaugh to force in another run for a 6-1 Southview lead.
The Cougars added two insurance runs in the sixth off the Knights’ fourth pitcher, Joey DiPierro. Vlasnik reached on an infield single, Boerst followed with an RBI triple to right-center, and McDonald’s double to left one-hopped the fence to send Boerst home for an 8-1 lead.
“Early in the game we gave them a lot of opportunities,” St. Francis coach Tim Gerken said. “You’ve got to give them credit because they were playing with a pretty good approach at that time. We were on the wrong end of it.”
St. Francis (18-7), which scored the game’s first run on Brady Ansara’s sacrifice fly in the first inning, plated two more off of Cougars’ reliever Sam Stout in the seventh. Nick Lankard delivered those runs with a single to right, but Stout closed out the win.