Title game bound
Dragons to play for D10 title after 2-1 win over Slippery Rock
ERIE, Pa. – Ben Berdine did it to Slippery Rock again, and this performance lifted the Warren Dragons into the District 10 title game.
After throwing a 1-hit shutout against the Rockets in April, the sophomore was just as dominant this time around. He gave up just four hits and one unearned run while striking out seven. That, coupled with clutch RBI hits from James Swanson and Mitch Grosch in the fifth inning lifted the Dragons to a 2-1 win in the District 10 Class 4A semifinals on Friday at Ainsworth Field.
“Being perfectly honest, I probably didn’t,” Berdine said when asked if he broke a sweat. “I mean, I did before the game, but that’s about it.”
There was no panic after the Rockets took the lead with two outs on an error in the top of the second. Instead, the easy-going righty only got more locked in.
“Ben was in the zone the whole game,” said his catcher, senior Aidan Morrison.
Conversely, the Dragons (15-6) struggled with the bats early against Slippery Rock ace lefty Ian Balquist.
Balquist retired the first eight men in order, not allowing a baserunner until Swanson’s 2-out walk in the third.
Morrison got the Dragons’ first hit, a bloop single in the fourth, but Balquist stranded pinch-runner Tyler Gustafson and Grosch, who was hit by a pitch.
“We were just adjusting to the game, really,” Grosch said. “Everything felt kind of quick. We just had to relax and do what we do best.”
They did just that in the fifth.
Berdine walked with one out and was replaced by courtesy runner Alex Borger. Swanson failed to get a bunt attempt down and got to two strikes, before Borger advanced to second on a wild pitch. The bunt was off, but Swanson ripped the next pitch he saw into left-center to tie the game. An errant throw coupled with heads up baserunning allowed the sophomore to advance all the way to third.
“Bunting’s not my strong suit,” Swanson admitted. “I’ve been working on it, but when I got to two strikes, I got a fastball down the middle and was able to put a good swing on it.”
The very next pitch, Grosch ripped a single to left to give the Dragons a 2-1 lead. It almost became 4-1, as Micah Passmore laced a drive to the deepest part of the park in center, but Zack Thompson made a great play to rob him of extra bases.
“That’s playoff baseball, what you saw today,” said Warren coach Rick Eaton. “We were battle-tested. We had that one tough week where we lost three games by one run and today we showed the fortitude to gut it out.”
Berdine retired the side in order in the sixth, thanks in large part to a diving catch by Ryan Arnold in left.
In the seventh, he worked around Nathan Willison’s leadoff single. Zach Caldwell attempted to get a sac bunt down, but Berdine made a great play to get Willison at second. Two pitches later, Walker Allison hit a soft line drive to first baseman Nick Hussey, who doubled off Caldwell to end the game.
“Ben was able to jam him and get a soft line drive to Nick who turned the double play to end the game,” noted Eaton. “Ben, he’s grinding inside. He wants it as much as anybody. But his outside demeanor is perfect for a pitcher.
“That’s a good win, hopefully one of many.”
It was also satisfying, after being on the short end of five 1-run games this season, the Dragons came out on the right end on Friday when it mattered the most.
“We’ve been on the other side of so many one run games,” Morrison said. “To be on this side on this stage is really nice. We didn’t get a lot of hits but we got them at the right time.”
Balquist also went the distance for Slippery Rock, allowing just three hits, walking two and striking out three.
“We’ve played in a lot of these games,” Grosch said. “We just kept our composure and did what we had to do to win.”
Next up a third meeting with General McLane. The Lancers rallied for a wild 7-6, eight inning win over Harbor Creek in the semifinals.
The Dragons swept the Lancers in the regular season (5-4 win at home, 5-2 in Edinboro), but this time the District 10 Class 4A title will be on the line. First pitch is scheduled for 1 p.m. Monday at Ainsworth Field in Erie.
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SLIPPERY ROCK (1)
Balquist p 3-0-0-0, Z. Thompson cf 3-0-1-0, D. Duffalo c 3-0-0-0, A. Duffalo rf 3-1-1-0, S. Thompson 1b 3-0-0-0, Willison lf 2-0-2-0, Caldwell ss 1-0-0-0, Allison 2b 3-0-0-0, Hildebrand 1b 2-0-0-0, Totals 23-1-4-0
Grosch 2b 2-0-1-1, Passmore 3b 3-0-0-0, Cummings dh 3-0-0-0, Morrison c 3-0-1-0, Gustafson cf 0-0-0-0, Rafalski ss 3-0-0-0, Baldensperger cf 3-0-0-0, Arnold lf 3-0-0-0, Berdine p 1-0-0-0, Borger r 0-1-0-0, Swanson rf 1-1-1-1, Totals 22-2-3-2
Slippery Rock 010 000 0 – 1 4 3
Warren 000 020 x – 2 3 1
SB – Swanson
IP H R ER BB K
Balquist (L, 6-2) 6 3 2 1 2 3
Berdine (W, 5-0) 7 4 1 0 2 7
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GENERAL MCLANE 7, HARBOR CREEK 6, 8 INNINGS
It was only fitting that a game full of twists and turns would end in an unconventional way.
With the game tied 6-6 with two outs and a runner on second in the bottom of the eigth inning, General McLane’s Chance Hoehn went down swinging on a third strike. The pitch was wild, however, and the ball escaped past Harbor Creek catcher Cameron Williamson. Hoehn raced to first as teammate Matt Mountain sprinted for third.
Hoehn made it safely to first and an error by Williamson allowed Mountain to come all the way around for the game-winning run as the Lancers defeated the Huskies, 7-6 to advance to Monday’s District 10 title game against Warren.
Harbor Creek had a 3-1 lead after one, and was up 4-1 until the fifth. General McLane scored four in the fifth to take a 5-4 lead, then tacked on an insurance run in the sixth.
The Huskies came back to tie it in the seventh before the Lancers walk off in the eigth.