WADSWORTH — There is no need to rally when “Lally” is on the mound.
Big plays were hard to come by Thursday in a Barberton Division I Sectional final pitting top-seeded Wadsworth and No. 8 Highland, as Grizzlies veteran Nick Lallathin and Hornets sophomore Nathan Meikle were locked in an impressive duel.
Somehow, someway, Lallathin was involved in the three momentum-swinging moments, pitching a one-hitter and leading mistake-free Wadsworth to a 3-0 victory to avenge a loss at this stage last season.
The Grizzlies (18-7) advanced to play fourth-seeded Brunswick (14-12) on Tuesday at the Barberton Sports Complex in Norton.
“I’m pretty excited because my defense did phenomenal today,” Lallathin said in reference to a diving stop by shortstop Carl Pennington and a pickoff by catcher Matt Moore. “I started out strong. I got a little weaker in the middle innings, but I got back to being strong in the end.
“I always depend on my defense, though. I know they have my back every time.”
Lallathin (6-2) walked a season-high five but allowed only a single to Cole Tessena. He struck out three to lower his ERA to 0.66, which is on pace to break the 1983 school record held by current pitching coach Bill Gearhart (0.71). Lallathin also pitched 6⅓ innings of shutout relief last season against the Hornets (8-10).
The Walsh University recruit also scored the first run when he blew through a late stop sign from coach Greg Pickard, got his 20th career pickoff to get out of a bases-loaded jam in the fifth and had two of the Grizzlies’ six hits against Meikle, who nearly matched him pitch for pitch.
Lallathin only threw 51-of-89 pitches for strikes — he struggled high and wide in the later innings — but nothing was going to stop him from winning the final home game of his career.
“He’s a pitcher,” Highland coach Jay Grissom said. “He’s a high school kid who knows how to change eye levels and work in and out and up and down. With his ability to mow through a lineup one time without ever even showing a breaking ball, coming back it’s like facing a whole different guy the second and third time through.
“He’s an elite kid, for sure.”
With a low-80s fastball and a stellar, late-breaking curveball/slider combination, Meikle (1-2, 1.93 ERA) did all he could to keep the light-hitting Hornets competitive. Subtract Lallathin and Chase Diosy’s 2-for-3 efforts and Meikle surrendered only hits, walked none and struck out six.
The second run was unearned, as two infield errors sandwiched around a Brock Snowball stolen base put Wadsworth ahead 2-0 in the fourth.
“I’ll tell you what, (Meikle) looked good,” Pickard said. “He located his off-speed pitch, he threw hard and he threw a lot of strikes.”
Lallathin took a no-hitter into the fifth, when Tessena led by off by smacking a groundball through the left side. A fly out followed, but Lallathin lost the zone and walked No. 7 hitter Justin Barr and No. 8 man Zane Barnhart to load the bases.
Pinch-hitter Kyle Kalfas struck out, and Lallathin quickly got ahead 0-2 on Lake Erie recruit Tyler Savron. A sneaky call from the dugout then led to Lallathin unleashing his best pickoff move of the afternoon to nab Barnhart and end the inning.
“A lot of people don’t expect a backdoor pick with the bases loaded, especially with two strikes,” Lallathin said. “Our coaches are really good at catching people off-guard.”
In the second inning, the Walsh recruit poked an opposite-field single to left. Diosy crushed a 2-2 pitch to the right-center gap and, as Lallathin reached the third-base bag, Pickard tried to signal a hard stop sign while the relay throw came in.
Lallathin didn’t see Pickard’s hands until it was too late and barreled for home, using his long legs to veer a little right and get his feet down on the plate as the relay skipped to catcher Barr.
Pickard fell on the sword when asked about the sequence, saying it was his fault for being indecisive. He then let out a hearty laugh when it was suggested only a standout could get away with that.
“I love it,” Pickard said. “It was kind of more like a suggestion. I didn’t see where (Lallathin) was because I was watching the ball. I don’t think he could have stopped, anyway, so that was good on his part. He gets a leash because he was safe.”
Wadsworth 3, Highland 0
HIGHLAND 000 000 0 — 0 1 3
WADSWORTH 010 101 x — 3 6 0
WP — Nick Lallathin (6-2) 7 innings, 5 walks, 6 strikeouts. LP — Nathan Meikle (1-2) 6 innings, 2 earned runs, 0 walks, 6 strikeouts. Highland (8-10). Wadsworth (18-7) — Lallathin 2 singles, 2 runs; Chase Diosy 2 singles, RBI.