FAIRVIEW PARK — It’s safe to assume none of the players sitting in the Cloverleaf baseball team’s dugout Tuesday remember the last time the Colts won a tournament game.
A total team effort is needed when fighting 17 years of bad history, and 10th-seeded Cloverleaf delivered it in an 11-2 victory over seventh-seeded Fairview in a Cuyahoga Community College West Division II Sectional semifinal.
The Colts advanced to play today at second-seeded Keystone (21-4).
“It’s been a long time since we’ve won a sectional game, and it just feels great to be the first to do it in a while,” catcher Michael Romanotto said.
Every player in the lineup for the Colts (11-16) scored or drove in a run, and Sam Brandt (2-4) delivered a strong complete game with impeccable control against the Warriors (10-11).
“It’s been a long time coming for this program, and we’ve worked since Day 1 to build this program to win championships. We work every day,” Cloverleaf coach Mark Kelly said. “We remind them of energy and attitude. That’s what we live by.”
Brandt’s senior experience on the mound led the Colts, as he held Fairview scoreless on four hits through four innings with rarely a hard-hit ball to be found.
“(Brandt) did a phenomenal job like he always does for us,” Romanotto said. “It feels like we always have a connection when he pitches, because we’ve been doing it for so long.”
The Warriors strung together three hits to score two runs in the fifth, but Brandt refocused and retired the final eight hitters. He finished with one earned run on seven hits, one walk and one hit batter with five strikeouts.
“When we looked at it and talked as coaches, we all decided, ‘Let’s give the ball to the senior,”’ said Kelly, whose rotation also includes sophomores Drew Schreck and Jeremy Cottrell. “He’s earned it. Being in this situation in a sectional game, he did phenomenal.”
Cloverleaf leadoff hitter Max Dieckhoner drew a walk and Romanotto notched the first of his three hits to put runners on the corners in the first inning. The pair teamed on a double steal for the first run.
The Colts broke open the game in the second after first baseman Devin Tierney doubled to left-center field and designated hitter Ashton Newton laid down a bunt and raced to second base.
Tierney scored on a groundout by third baseman Justin George. Dieckhoner and Romanotto got on to load the bases with two outs, and Fairview right fielder Joe Rizzo dropped a Cottrell fly ball that emptied the bases to give Cloverleaf a 5-0 lead.
“It feels amazing when everybody contributes,” Newton said. “Every game, no matter the situation, it’s always amazing.”
Warriors starter Jeremy Sassono retired 10 straight Colts after the outburst, but Cloverleaf returned to form with six runs on five hits in the sixth.
Logan Tierney started the romp with a single to left field and scored on a Newton single up the middle. Newton scored on a single by Dieckhoner, and Romanotto followed with a hit that plated George.
Cottrell’s single to right brought in Dieckhoner and Romanotto, and second baseman Bodie Hillwig drove in right fielder Corey Duke.
Cloverleaf 11, Fairview 2
Cuyahoga Community College West Division II Sectional Semifinal
CLOVERLEAF 140 006 0 — 11 10 2
FAIRVIEW 000 020 0 — 2 7 2
WP — Sam Brandt (2-4) 7 innings, earned run, walk, hit by pitch, 5 strikeouts. LP – Jeremy Sassono 5⅓ innings, 8 runs, 5 earned, 7 hits, walk, hit by pitch, 3 strikeouts. Cloverleaf (11-16) — Max Dieckhoner single, RBI, 3 runs, stolen base; Michael Romanotto 3 singles, RBI, 2 runs, stolen base; Corey Duke single, walk, run; Devin Tierney double, run; Ashton Newton 2 singles, RBI, 2 runs; Justin George single, hit by pitch, RBI, run. Fairview (10-11) — Ryan Starks single, hit by pitch, run; Timmy Hollander single, RBI run, stolen base.