WADSWORTH — The intensity of Bryce Budzinski on the mound is obvious. Beginning by putting his glove over his face and ending with a snap of the elbow, the senior has proven to be dynamite when his late-breaking curveball is finding the strike zone.
Once he was staked to a big lead before even throwing a pitch Tuesday in a Barberton Division I Sectional final at Wadsworth, there was no stopping him.
The three-year starter got out of a big jam in the fourth inning and took a no-hitter into the fifth, powering the seventh-seeded Hornets to a 5-1 victory over the No. 2 Grizzlies that pushed their winning streak to seven.
Senior-laden Highland (14-8) advanced to play Monday against sixth-seeded Archbishop Hoban (12-8), a 6-4 upset winner over third-seeded Brunswick, at the Barberton Sports Complex in Norton.
“I’m just pumped up for the next game. I just want to play again,” Budzinski said. “This was pretty fun. We made it farther than last year, and it’s Wadsworth, which is a rival.
“I just want to win for these guys. We want to go as far as we can.”
Budzinski (3-1, 2.72 ERA) was pulled with no outs in the seventh — shortstop Gavin Noble recorded the final three outs — after throwing 104 pitches. The right-hander allowed an earned run and walked five but also struck out eight to keep Wadsworth (13-9) from gaining any momentum.
Budzinski went 1-2-3 in the first, third and sixth, and his only real trouble came after walking Austin Webb, Nick Lallathin and Anthony Gannon with a 5-0 lead in the fourth. The Grizzlies’ Matt Moore rapped a shot into the left-side hole, but third baseman Jackson Miller made a sliding stop, got to his feet quickly and gunned to first for a big out.
That was all she wrote for Wadsworth, which scored on a groundout by Jake Peebles in the seventh.
“I got the ball at my feet and got to it really quick,” Miller said while donning a white cowboy hat. “It was a nice diving play to end the inning.”
The Hornets’ cushy lead came down to two fortunate bounces.
Grizzlies ace Gannon (5-3, 3.63) walked the bases loaded with two outs and appeared to get out of the jam by striking out .520 hitter Sam Zeleznik. However, the ball hit the dirt and trickled beyond the left-handed batter’s box, and a throw to first was not in time to score the first run.
That gave Highland life, and Miller smoked a grounder off the third-base bag that scored Noble and Budzinski. Ryan Chema followed with a two-run single to right and suddenly the score was 5-0.
“We just fought hard,” Miller said. “We had some pretty good hits, and we made the plays out there.”
Wadsworth got a brilliant effort from left-handed reliever Lallathin, who threw 6⅓ shutout innings to lower his ERA to 1.55 and also picked off three runners to give him 11 for the season. Carl Pennington and Moore had singles.
This day, however, belonged to the Budzinski and the red-hot Hornets.
“(The 5-0) lead took some weight off my shoulders,” he said, “but I still was going to shut them down.”
Highland 5, Wadsworth 1
Barberton Division I Sectional Final
HIGHLAND 500 000 0 — 5 4 0
WADSWORTH 000 000 1 — 1 2 0
WP — Bryce Budzinski (3-1) 6-plus innings, earned run, 5 walks, 8 strikeouts. LP — Anthony Gannon (5-3) ⅔inning, 5 runs, 5 earned, hit, 3 walks, hit by pitch, 2 strikeouts. Highland (14-8) — Ryan Chema single, 2 RBIs; Jackson Miller single, 2 RBIs, 2 run. Wadsworth (13-9).