PORTSMOUTH —On an otherwise sunny Saturday, high atop Sunrise Avenue of all places, Notre Dame’s Matt Boldman brought the heat —before cloudy skies and thunder intervened for 55 minutes.
But, Boldman —back at it again after an impromptu delay —and the host and 12th-seeded Titans finished off the New Boston Tigers 10-0 in five innings, winning a Division IV baseball sectional semifinal and earning a date on Tuesday with fifth-seeded Ironton St. Joseph.
That’s correct, as the Titans —aside from a 1-2-3 second stanza —scored at least two runs in every inning of the five contested, including batting around against two Tiger pitchers amid the weather delay, and opening up an 8-0 advantage following four counters collected in the fourth.
The game was called following the fifth inning with the 10-run mercy rule, as Notre Dame —off Tiger reliever Brahdan Litteral —loaded the bases twice with four walks, an error, and an unsuccessful fielder’s choice in the frame.
The Titans tallied six hits, but took advantage of six walks and three New Boston errors —as Notre Dame’s six baseknocks included three doubles, a pair of bunt singles, and a Boldman RBI-infield single in the fourth for its eighth run.
Boldman also amassed two sacrifice flies for runs two and four, as Brayden Shepherd’s two-run double before the delay broke the game open to a 6-0 Notre Dame advantage.
But Boldman, before and after the perhaps unnecessary stoppage, didn’t allow a single baserunner after the game’s opening at-bat.
New Boston junior Myles Beasley singled to center, advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt, and then moved to third on a Mark Rivers groundout.
Boldman then struck out Josh Tabor to end the inning —and any threat the Tigers, playing their first sectional tournament tilt since their most recent baseball season in 2015 before this spring, had at an upset bid.
In all, the senior hurler had nine strikeouts —including for the final four outs and the New Boston side in the fifth.
He sat down the final 15 Tigers, leaving Beasley at third base in the first —as the other half-dozen New Boston outs never saw the baseball hit out of the infield.
Five went for defensive assists, and second baseman Reed Lasswell caught a pop-up in the fourth.
NDHS coach Dan Cassidy commented on Boldman’s dominance, perhaps tossing his best game of his entire senior season.
“Matt has been our number-two pitcher, but he has been somebody we’ve gone to quite a bit this year. He literally threw the ball as well today as he has thrown it all season,” said Cassidy. “He and I have talked a lot about leaving balls in the middle of the strike zone. But as we’ve gone on, he’s gotten better about that and just hitting his spots like he did today. Our battery today was absolutely phenomenal. I told (catcher) Reagan Lester the same thing. He did a great job of sticking those strikes and him and Matt doing the things they had to do.”
Notre Dame, off ace Ector Brady for the Tigers, got all the runs it needed for the win in the bottom of the first.
Eugene Collins, who put down three bunts including two for official singles and one in which he raced all the way around on an errant Tiger throw deep into right field foul territory, scored three runs —including on Myles Phillips’ double to center on the Titans’ second at-bat.
Collins was the leadoff man and stole second, setting up Phillips’ poke for the 1-0 lead.
Dylan Seison then walked and stole second as Phillips took third, as Boldman’s sacrifice fly to right made it 2-0 —before Collins’ crossing on his unlikely run off his bunt attempt in the third.
Phillips then doubled down the left-field line, stole third, and then scored on Boldman’s second sac fly — this one to center for the 4-0 lead.
“We’re trying to find our groove as far as hitting, and we have those guys at the top of our lineup that typically always hit, but our plan today was to chip away, get at least two runs an inning for five innings and we’re done,” said Cassidy.
Brady didn’t pitch badly in the loss, striking out four in his three and one-thirds prior to the weather delay —as he walked only Seison and hit Shepherd with a fourth-inning pitch.
But only three of Notre Dame’s eight runs off him were even earned, as Brady didn’t return to the mound following the 55-minute stoppage time.
“The delay hurt us with Ector. He set for about an hour, and then he was too tight and sore to put back out there. We didn’t want to risk injuring him down six. That put us in a position in where we had to go to our bullpen, which is not one of our strong suits,” said New Boston coach Adam Cox.
For the first-year returned Tigers, they finished 2-11 —playing only Southern Ohio Conference Division I games, with wins over Western and East.
A second scheduled SOC I matchup against East, which has been postponed multiple times, will not be made up.
“These kids battled all year long, they hung in there and fought hard and didn’t finish last in the league and we weren’t the last seed in the (Division IV Southeast District) seedings,” continued Cox. “The most important thing is that these kids are out here playing baseball and finishing the season. We’ll have some returning starters coming back next year, where we can improve on and keep getting our program going in the right direction. I’m really proud of the kids and their effort and we’ve come a long way in one year. There’s a lot of things we did well for ourselves this year, and now we’re building to get better.”
The 12-10 Titans, conversely, continued their quest on Tuesday towards a sectional championship —when they traveled to SOC I runner-up St. Joe, which they defeated 5-1 in an April rain to eventually cost the Flyers a share of the small-school SOC crown.
This was the second consecutive season in which the Titans traveled and faced the Flyers for the coveted sectional title.
“We expect it to be a very competitive ballgame again,” said Cassidy. “They will throw their best, we will throw our best available, and we’ll see what happens,”
* * *
New Boston 000 00 — 0 1 3
Notre Dame 202 42 —10 6 0
GHS: Ector Brady 3 1/3 IP, 8R, 3ER, 1BB, 1HB, 5H, 4K, 19BF; Brahdan Litteral 2/3+IP, 2R, 2ER, 5BB, 0HB, 1H, 0K, 9BF
NDHS: Matt Boldman 5IP, 0R, 0ER, 0BB, 0HB, 1H, 9K, 16BF
W — Matt Boldman; L — Ector Brady
Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @paulboggssports © 2022 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved