Bluejays end Lisbon’s season at districts

STRUTHERS–A few costly fielding miscues plus some quality relief pitching spelled the end of Lisbon’s baseball season Wednesday.

The third-seeded Blue Devils surrendered three unearned runs after an early three run lead and were held in check for 6 2/3 innings by Jackson-Milton reliever Noah Laster in a 4-3 loss to the second-seeded Bluejays in a Division IV district semifinal at Cene Park.

The Blue Devils see their best season in several years end with an 18-6 record, while the BlueJays (ranked 15th in the Div. IV state poll) improve to 19-5 and move on to take on top-seeded Western Reserve in a district final for the second straight season at 6:30 p.m. today at Cene Park.

“We didn’t have some things go our way today, but we had a great year,” Lisbon coach Doug Andric said. “We won a share of the league title and got 18 wins. There’s nothing to be ashamed of, they played hard all year.”

The Blue Devils hit Jackson-Milton lefty Sebastian Lay–who had trouble finding the strike zone–hard in the first inning and looked like they might put the Bluejays in a deep hole.

David Toot and Colin Sweeney singled to set the table for back-to-back RBI singles by Cam Summers and Marcus Nenichka to put Lisbon up 2-0. Lay then hit Bailey McCullough to load the bases with just one out.

“Lay is a nice pitcher. We were just able to work ourselves into good hitters counts and jump on some pitches,” Andric said.

Sensing the game was on the verge of slipping away, Bluejays coach Kevin Hogue summoned Noah Laster from behind the plate to take the mound. The big right-hander was immediately greeted with an RBI single by Justin Sweeney, but got out of the bases-loaded jam with a pair of strikeouts.

Laster proceeded to settle in and allowed just two hits the rest of the game, a leadoff single by Toot in the second and a one-out triple by Logan Bell in the fourth. He finished with nine strikeouts and no walks.

“He brought it pretty good and his off-speed pitches caught us off-guard a couple of times,” Andric said. “We still hit the ball hard, but they made some great plays in the outfield.”

Andric said the Blue Devils faced Laster during the regular season in a game that Lisbon won 7-5.

“He didn’t really do anything different today,” Andric said. “Both teams kind of struggled in the field the first time we played and today they were really solid in the field.”

Lisbon pitcher Logan Bell faced the minimum the first time through the Jackson-Milton order, but the Bluejays came alive with two outs in the fourth when catcher Zak Lane doubled in Eric Ostrowski to make it 3-1. A Lisbon fielding error extended the inning and allowed John Voland to get the Bluejays a run closer with an RBI single. Bell was relieved by Marcus Nenichka one batter later.

“Logan was a little bit tired, but I also think that was the right time to bring him out,” Andric said. “We wanted to try and change things up.”

The Bluejays capitalized on two errors to take the lead in the fifth. Lay reached on a one-out fielding error and came all the way around to score with two outs on a wild throw to first. Laster reached on the throwing error and was able to keep going all the way to third. Lane promptly followed with an RBI single to give Jackson-Milton the lead. Laster retired the last six batters in order to close the door.

“Our kids have been tested all year, they showed a lot of character tonight,” Jackson-Milton coach Kevin Hogue said. “Noah did a fantastic job on the mound for us. He’s been the type of athlete that’s been leaned on no matter what sport he’s playing. You give him the ball and good things are going to happen.”

Wednesday marked the end of the road for Lisbon seniors Colin Sweeney, Bailey McCullough, Noah Barnes, David Toot, Marcus Nenichka, Devin Johnson and Michael French–five of whom were regular starters. Most of the group saw action since they were freshmen and helped steer the program in the right direction.

“I think this group of senior made a positive change in every sport at Lisbon, not just baseball,” Sweeney said. “As soon as we came in as freshmen, we made an impact. That’s what we’ve done since we were little. We’ve all stayed really close, and that’s the biggest thing.”

Game notes

¯ Andric lingered on the field for an additional few moments to address the seniors.

“This group showed a lot of leadership ability,” Andric said. “A lot of them played since they were freshmen. That season, we didn’t win a whole lot of games. They worked hard in the offseason to get better. They definitely changed our program for the better and hopefully it continues with the younger kids coming up.”

¯ This season marked Lisbon’s second straight appearance in a district semifinal. Prior to that, the program had gone 13 seasons without making it to the district round.

LI: 3-0-0-0-0-0-0–3-7-3

JM: 0-0-0-2-2-0-0–4-6-0

LI–Logan Bell (3 2/3 IP, 3K, 1BB), Marcus Nenichka, lp, (1 1/3 IP, 1K, 0BB), David Toot (1IP, 0K, 1BB) and Cam Summers.

JM–Sebastian Lay (1/3 IP 1K, 0BB), Noah Laster, wp, (6 2/3 IP, 9K, 0BB) and Zak Lane.