Flyers ‘come together’ to rout PND and reach district finals

Published 6:01 pm Saturday, May 20, 2023

St. Joseph Flyers’ pitcher Evan Balestra gets set to deliver a pitch during a 15-4 win over the Portsmouth Notre Dame Titans on Saturday in the Division 4 district semifinals. (Tim Gearhart Sports Photo for The Ironton Tribune)


St. Joseph Flyers’ first baseman Hunter Staton stretches to make the catch that just beats the runner to the base for an out during Saturday’s Division 4 district semifinal game. The Flyers won 15-4 to reach the finals on Monday. (Tim Gearhart Sports Photo for The Ironton Tribune)

By Jim Walker

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CHILLICOTHE — In the words of Hannibal Smith of the A-Team TV show, “I love it when a plan comes together.”

Coach Greg Bryant and his staff put together a game plan and the St. Joseph Flyers executed it well as they rolled past the Portsmouth Notre Dame Titans 15-4 in the Division 4 district semifinals Saturday at Paints Stadium.

“We couldn’t have had a better game strategy and the kids went out and did what we needed to do to win,” said Bryant.

“We wanted Carson Willis to give us three or four innings and he did. He got into some trouble but he worked his way out. Evan Balestra came in and did his job.”

St. Joseph (18-7) will now play Whiteoak at 4 p.m. on Monday at Paints Stadium for the district championship. This is the Flyers first trip to the district finals since 2007.

Whiteoak edged Racine Southern 2-1 in the earlier game on Saturday.

The Flyers didn’t waste any time getting their offense going as they scored 5 runs in the first inning.

Titans’ starter Alex Cassidy forgot his GPS and struggled to find home plate as he walked Kai Coleman, Brady “Quinn” Medinger and Evan Balestra to start the inning. Coleman then scored on a passed ball.

Drew Brown walked to re-load the bases and Medinger scored on a passed ball. An out later, Wesley Neal singled home a run. Hunter Staton singled in a run, Darryn Harvey walked and another run scored on a passed ball.

Landon Rowe hit a hard ground ball to second that was momentarily bobbled and Rowe was thrown out at first as the run scored.

“The kids have been working hard and I think they took the momentum they had from Thursday (sectional title comeback win over Nelsonville-York) and carried it over to today,” said Bryant.

“We got contributions up and down the lineup and played one of our better defensive games. We did little things that helped like Darryn Harvey getting on base three times or being patient at the plate. It was a good win.”

Notre Dame (14-7) came back to get a run in the top of the second when Reagan Lester led off with a single, stole second, took third on a wild pitch and scored on a hit by Wyatt Webb.

But the Flyers answered with 3 runs in the bottom of the inning.

With one out, Medinger walked, stole second and took third on an infield hit by Balestra who then went to second on defensive indifference. Brown had an RBI singled with both runners scoring.

Mark Hodges walked and Neal followed with an RBI single.

The Titans got 2 runs in the fourth inning to cut the deficit to 8-3.

Brody Coleman and Webb walked and Dylan Seison had an RBI double. Myles Phillips then hit a sacrifice fly.

Notre Dame made it 8-4 with a run in the top of the fifth when Alex Cassidy singled, Ethan Kingrey walks and Brody Coleman singled.

But the Flyers came right back with 4 runs in the bottom of the inning to open up a 12-4 lead.

Harvey was hit by a pitch, Rowe singled him to third and took second on the throw. Kai Coleman hit into a fielder’s choice as pinch-runner Matthew Heighton beat the throw home for a run. Medinger reached on a fielder’s choice as Rowe scored and a wild pitch scored Coleman.

St. Joseph ended the game early with 3 runs in the sixth inning.

With one out, Staton and Heighton singled and Rowe was hit by a pitch. Kai Coleman doubled to score pinch-runner Ian Whaley, Heighton and Rowe to end the game.

Staton was 2-4 with an RBI to lead the Flyers 8-hit attack. Coleman 1-4 with a double and 4 RBI, Brown was 1-3 with 2 RBI, Rowe 1-3 with an RBI, Balestra 1-2 and an RBI, Neal 1-4 with an RBI and Heighton 1-1.

Willis got the win as he went 3-plus innings giving up 4 hits, 3 earned runs with 3 strikeouts and 4 walks. Balestra finished and gave up 4 hits, 1 earned run with 3 strikeouts and 2 walks.

Notre Dame 010 210 = 4 8 3

St. Joseph 530 043 = 15 8 0

Alex Cassidy, Reagan Lester (1), Myles Phillips (5) and Luke Cassidy. Carson Willis, Evan Balestra (4) and Drew Brown. W-Willis (IP-3.0, H-4, R-3, ER-3, K-3, BB-4, WP-2). Balestra (IP-3.0, H-4, R-1, ER-1, K-3, BB-2, Balk-1). L-A. Cassidy (IP-0.1, H-1, R-5, ER-3, K-0, BB-5, WP-1). Lester (IP-3.2, H-4, R-6, ER-6, K-2, BB-2, HBP-2). Phillips (IP-1.1, H-3, R-4, ER-4, K-1, BB-0, WP-1, HBP-1). Hitting-Notre Dame: Dylan Seison 2-4 2B RBI, Myles Phillips 2-4 RBI, Alex Cassidy 1-4, Reagan Lester 1-3, Brody Coleman 1-2 RBI, Wyatt Webb 1-2, Bryce McGraw RBI; St. Joseph: Kai Coleman 1-4 2B 3-RBI, Brady “Quinn” Medinger RBI, Evan Balestra 1-2 RBI, Drew Brown 1-3 2-RBI, Wesley Neal 1-4 RBI, Hunter Staton 2-4 RBI, Matthew Heighton 1-1, Landon Rowe 1-3 RBI.