PORTSMOUTH — Luke Cassidy is only a freshman for Notre Dame High School’s baseball club.
However, as of Tuesday to be exact, he’s already celebrated turning 16.
That’s because Cassidy, on the mound for the Titans against the visiting Ironton St. Joseph Flyers for first-place outright in the Southern Ohio Conference Division I, struck out 16 Flyers —spearheading the Titans to a 4-2 triumph.
With Cassidy in command, and despite defensive hiccups in the final two innings in the form of all three Notre Dame errors, the Titans took a 4-0 lead into the final two innings —and gave up an unearned run apiece in stanzas six and seven.
But more importantly in the sixth and seventh, as Cassidy faced six Flyer batters in the sixth and five more in the last, was the right-hander’s ability to escape dicey jams —stranding runners at second and third in the sixth, and Brady Medinger at second in the finale.
The only other Flyer that was left aboard — Drew Brown on a two-out walk at second in the first.
With the victory, the Titans took over the top SOC I spot —at 7-3 and 5-0 in the division.
NDHS first-year head coach Jayson Coleman commented on the win’s importance, as the Titans returned to Ohio over last weekend — after playing some strong competition in a Florida tournament.
It had been a dozen days since they last faced a Buckeye State squad —and that was Western on Monday.
“We lost all three of our games down there, but we saw some really, really good teams (in Florida). The first day, we saw four different pitches throw 85-plus (mph), changing speeds in and out and not missing anything,” said Coleman. “But we’ve come back to league play and the goal we set out was to win the SOC I. And every game in the league is a big game. Take nobody for granted, and gotta keep improving.”
The loss left St. Joseph at 8-2 and 7-1, as the Flyers —which hosted Green on Friday for another key conference clash —found themselves tied in the SOC I loss column with the Bobcats.
Speaking of which, the Titans tangle with the Bobcats on Monday high atop Sunrise Avenue —as Cassidy quickly rose to the occasion on Tuesday against St. Joseph.
He recorded strikeouts for all three outs in the opening inning amid the walk to Brown, struck out the side 1-2-3 in the second, and fanned two apiece in every inning the rest of the way.
For the Flyers, their only hits were a Kai Coleman two-out single in the third and a Medinger two-out RBI-single in the seventh — which scored St. Joseph starting pitcher Jake Stephens, who reached on a leadoff error.
But the Titans caught Coleman stealing, Cassidy kept Coleman and Evan Balestra on the bases with back-to-back sixth-inning strikeouts and the score at 4-1, and Medinger —who scored in the sixth on Landon Rowe’s RBI-groundout —was left at second to end the game.
Rowe represented the tying run at the plate, but Cassidy K’d him —giving him 16 strikeouts in facing the Flyers a full three times through.
Balestra walked in the sixth, but Cassidy did not hit a batter —and his lone wild pitch which allowed Brown to take second in the first did not hurt, either.
In all, Cassidy’s count on pitches reached a total of 110.
“Luke has great command of the zone. He throws about 82 (mph), has real good command of his pitches, and can throw any pitch at any time. Fastball, slider, curve, change-up, has good command of them all and he had good command tonight,” said Coach Coleman. “We booted the ball around a little bit and made three errors, and made Luke face more batters than what he needed to. But we believe in Luke, he throws all winter long, he is our guy and got out of those last two innings almost unscathed.”
While Cassidy did the pitching, and by extension the overwhelming majority of the defensive work, Notre Dame did support him with one run apiece off Stephens in the second and third —before tacking two ultra-important points on in the fifth.
In the second, Myles Phillips led off with a walk, advanced to second on a wild pitch, and then scored when Brody Coleman dropped in a single to shallow centerfield.
In the third, Dylan Seison singled to lead off, followed by three consecutive free passes —walks to Reagan Lester and Cassidy to load the bases, and Alex Cassidy being hit by a pitch to score Seison.
Finally, in the fifth off Brown, Notre Dame doubled its run total to 4-0 —with its final four of six hits.
Alex Cassidy doubled to left center to lead off, then scored two batters later when freshman Ethan Kingrey singled.
Coleman singled again, and senior Wyatt Webb —already hit twice by Stephens pitches —bunted for a single, in which a Flyer defender dove for the popped-up bunt but couldn’t make the difficult play.
Kingrey raced home once the ball dropped, giving the Titans a seemingly insurmountable 4-0 lead.
“Timely hits big time by a sophomore (Coleman) and a freshman (Kingrey) for us,” said the coach.
But, as Coach Coleman made mention, the final two innings allowed Notre Dame’s coaching staff future teaching points.
The three errors put three runners in scoring position and already two across —until Cassidy bailed the Titans out with strikeouts.
In addition, Notre Dame left nine runners on the basepaths itself.
“We left a bunch on base and honestly, we should have put up 10 runs, with them hitting us or walking us and us hitting the ball late. But that’s growing pains and being young,” said Coach Coleman. “But at the same time, proud of these young guys for stepping up and older guys getting on base. Overall, a good team win in the league, but we have to clean up some things to be better.”
But for now, entering Monday against Green, the Titans remain high atop Sunrise Avenue —and alone in first place in the SOC I.
“We’re on the right track for that right now. We just have to keep getting better,” said Coleman.
* * *
St. Joseph 000 001 1 — 2 2 1
Notre Dame 011 020 X —4 6 3
SJHS: Jake Stephens 4IP, 2R, 2ER, 3HB, 4BB, 2H, 1WP, 6K, 21BF; Drew Brown 1/3 IP, 2R, 2ER, 0HB, 1BB, 4H, 1WP, 0K, 6BF; Wesley Neal 1 2/3IP, 0R, 0ER, 0HB, 0BB, 0H, 0WP, 0K, 4BF
NDHS: Luke Cassidy 7IP, 2R, 0ER, 0HB, 2BB, 2H, 1WP, 16K, 27BF
W —Luke Cassidy; L —Jake Stephens
St. Joseph hitting: Kai Coleman 1-3, Evan Balestra BB, Drew Brown BB, Jake Stephens SB RS, Brady Medinger 1-3 RBI RS 2SB, Landon Rowe RBI
Notre Dame hitting: Dylan Seison 1-3 BB RS SB, Reagan Lester BB, Luke Cassidy BB, Alex Cassidy 1-3 D HBP RBI RS, Myles Phillips BB RS, Ethan Kingrey 1-3 RBI RS, Brody Coleman 2-3 RBI, Wyatt Webb 1-1 2HBP RBI SB, Eugene Collins BB
Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @paulboggssports © 2023 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved