By STEVE GOLDMAN
For the Star Beacon
As Scott Barber attested following Tuesday’s game, his Jefferson baseball team doesn’t do things the easy way. But the Falcons do get things done, and that’s what matters.
The Falcons, who have made a living of winning close games, did it again in the Division II sectional championship. An RBI double by junior Joe Piscsalko keyed a tie-breaking two-run rally in the top of the seventh and final inning, as Jefferson knocked off host West Geauga, 4-2.
The third-seeded Falcons (16-6), who have now won three consecutive sectional titles, advance to a district semifinal matchup, which will take place at Jefferson on Monday, against top-seeded Chagrin Falls.
Piscsalko’s big hit came with the score tied at two. Ethan Pawlowski had led off the inning by being hit by a pitch for the second time. Piscsalko came to bat one out later, and on a 1-1 pitch from Harry Sigman (2-4), hit a line drive the opposite way, down the left-field line. Mike Bielek made a diving attempt to catch the ball, but missed, and it went past him. The relay home was too late to get Pawlowski, and Piscsalko took third on the throw.
“I got two outside pitches, and I figured he was going to go outside,” Piscsalko said. “And he threw me an outside fastball. Luckily Ethan was on first. Without him, that doesn’t mean anything.”
“Big hit,” Barber said. “(Bielek) tried to make a big play on it obviously, and it turned into a big inning for us.”
After Tim Snyder replaced Sigman, Piscsalko held third on a groundout, but the Falcons got the insurance run when shortstop Cal Slusarz fielded Matt Barber’s grounder, but bounced the throw in front of first baseman John Monaco. Monaco’s attempt to scoop it was foiled when his glove broke, and the ball went through it.
“We hit the ball on the ground to get the fourth run on an error,” Scott Barber said. “You make things happen when you hit the ball on the ground.”
Pawlowski (4-0) was also credited with the win by pitching the final 1 2⁄3 innings in relief of Cole Erdel. Pawlowski entered with two men on, but induced Alex Gracia to hit a soft liner back to the mound for a double play. Then, with the bases loaded in the seventh via two walks and a hit, he got J.C. Mazzurco to fly to center for the final out.
Erdel also had a good game on the mound. With men on second and third, he struck out three-consecutive batters to escape trouble in the first inning. In fact both Wolverine runs came on plays in which rundowns went wrong.
Second-seeded West Geauga (13-9) scored the game’s initial run in the second inning. With Andrew Centrackio on third and one out, Garzia missed a squeeze bunt, and Centrackio was hung up between third and home. However, the return throw home hit Centrackio for an error.
Jefferson got that one back in the third when Kyle Ashburn’s two-out single brought home Pawlowski, who had singled and advanced to second on a wild pitch.
Brett Powers hit the right-center field gap for a two-out RBI double to give the Falcons a 2-1 lead in the fourth.
The Wolverines tied it in the fifth. Noah Bidar led off with his second double of the contest and advanced to third on a Bielek single. West G put on the delayed double steal, and although the throw home appeared to be in time to nail Bidar, he was able to avoid the tag with a wide slide.
“We didn’t adjust to our throwing lanes,” Scott Barber said. “But luckily, we overcame.”
Still, as Barber related, the defense played very well overall. One highlight came just after the tying run, when Matt Barber, who played first base, threw to third to double up Bielek after Nate Koller was retired on a grounder to short. Another came in the fourth, when with a man on second and two outs, Slusarz lined an apparent single to right field. Many in attendance prepared for Pawlowski to throw the ball home, but instead he went to first, where Barber scooped the ball before Slusarz could reach first base.
“That was huge,” Scott Barber said. “Just something that we’re ready to make. Our first baseman knows to cover the base. Ethan’s got a great arm, and he’s just a good athlete to make that play.”
Goldman is a freelance writer from South Euclid.