SOUTH CHARLESTON — As the postseason began earlier this month, an old headline was posted by the players in the Southeastern High School baseball team’s third base home dugout.
The headline reads: “Russia beats Southeastern in D-IV regional semifinal” — serving as both a reminder that last year’s tournament run ended earlier than expected and that they have another chance this spring.
The Trojans beat a familiar foe Monday to advance to the Division IV district finals for the second straight year. Southeastern senior Austin Miller’s two-run single in the bottom of the fifth inning was the difference, lifting the second-seeded Trojans to a 3-1 victory over fifth-seeded Catholic Central at South Charleston Community Park.
Trojans junior pitcher Gehrig Cordial threw a complete game, allowing one run on three hits with 10 strikeouts. At the plate, Cordial and Miller each had two hits.
“We survived to go to the next round,” said Southeastern coach Darron Routzhan. “They blinked and we didn’t. (Cordial) gutted it out and didn’t have his best stuff. We came together as a team, got the small ball going and did what we needed to do and didn’t blink.”
The Trojans improved to 13-9 and advanced to face Felicity-Franklin on Wednesday at a time and site to be determined.
Catholic Central finished its season 10-18, falling in a district semifinal game for the second straight season. The Irish upset top-seeded Tri-Village 8-4 in a second-round game last week.
“I told them afterwards that I was proud of them,” said Irish coach Jon Metzger. “There probably weren’t many people who picked us to get back to this point again and probably even fewer thought we had a chance tonight, especially after the last time they played us they beat us 11-0. Our kids showed up with a good attitude and felt like they could play with Southeastern and they did.”
The Trojans took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning on a single by sophomore Jacob Alderson.
The Irish tied the game in the top of the second inning on a single by senior Tim Gnau.
Irish sophomore Ben Bramel pitched six innings, allowing seven hits and three runs with four strikeouts and just one walk.
“He’s really been throwing really well and he pitched well enough today to win,” Metzger said. “He just came out on the wrong side of it. He pitched a great game. I can’t say enough about that.”
The Trojans put two more runs on the board in the fifth inning. With one out, sophomore Kyle Adkins singled and Cordial walked, setting up a sacrifice bunt by Alderson that pushed the runners to second and third.
“It was a no-brainer,” Routzhan said of the bunt. “We had to get them in scoring position, put some pressure on them and they blinked.”
Miller followed with a single to short center field, scoring two runs to make it 3-1.
In the sixth, the Irish threatened with no outs after freshman Brody Adams singled and senior Bryce Pummel reached on an error. Bramel followed with a hard hit ball up the middle, but Cordial picked it up and the Trojans turned a 1-6-3 double play.
“I was just trying to knock it down, keep it in the infield and keep the run from scoring,” Cordial said. “I just stuck my glove down there and we got a double play out of it.”
The Trojans will face another familiar opponent in Felicity Franklin, which beat Fayetteville Perry 4-0 in a district semifinal game. A year ago, Southeastern beat the Cardinals 4-0 in a district final game.
“(Getting to districts) was definitely a goal we’ve been trying to get to this season and obviously we want to go a little bit farther and make it to state hopefully,” Cordial said.
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