NORTON — The painful sting of disappointment was evident on the faces of the Medina baseball team.
The Bees shared numerous hugs in the first base dugout Tuesday night after sixth-seeded Firestone denied Medina its third straight trip to the district finals with a 2-1 victory in a Barberton Division I District semifinal.
Playing in its first district game since 2001, Firestone (22-8), which will meet fourth-seeded Brunswick (16-12) on Thursday, was unflappable in a game that went down to the wire.
The Falcons capitalized on two mistakes in the sixth inning, something second-seeded Medina (17-11) was never able to.
“They played a great game. There were many times where we could have broken it wide open, and we didn’t do that,” Bees coach Nick Kaplack said. “Firestone is a 20-plus win team, and they played phenomenally tonight.”
With the game tied 1-1, Firestone’s Josh Alexander laid down a bunt and reached safely when the Bees could not execute to start the sixth. After Alexander stole second and pitcher Ryan Fischer forced James Spengler to pop out to first baseman Nathan Lucarelli, another defensive miscue on a fly ball by designated hitter Jack Kirven brought in Alexander.
Medina, as it did throughout, was able to get runners in scoring position after the Falcons took the lead but did not get a timely hit.
The Bees’ Jake Johnson and Kyle Adams notched two-out singles in the bottom of the sixth, but pitcher Joe Durkee forced Brenden Stewart to foul out to first baseman Aaron Lux.
“Offensively, we didn’t keep the ball out of the air. We weren’t hitting the ball hard enough on the ground, which is usually what we do to win games,” Adams said. “We didn’t get timely hitting and left too many guys on.”
After Ethan Johnson picked up his third infield hit and Josh Bobey walked with one out in the seventh, Durkee (8-1) retired Breydan Cavey and Nate Lucarelli to finish his complete game and leave Medina thinking about what could have been.
“Probably the best team I’ve ever played with and playing with your schoolmates, there’s nothing like it,” Adams said. “I love these guys, and I’m going to miss them forever.”
After a one-out double in the second inning by Stewart, Medina hit nine straight balls in the air and none fell. The Bees also were 0-for-11 with a sacrifice fly with runners in scoring position.
“We faced a pitcher that pitched really well tonight, kept everyone off-balance and pitched even better with runners in scoring position,” Kaplack said. “Some of the swings were on point and the ball driven right at people.”
Ethan Johnson kicked off the Medina offense with the first of two perfectly laid bunt singles and advanced to third on two errors during Bobey’s at-bat in the first. Johnson scored on a fly ball by Cavey that Firestone left fielder Shawn Gates made a great diving catch on, saving at least one run.
Gates later saved at least two more runs with a long running catch. The speedy Falcon also tied the game with a double that scored Lux in the second inning.
Firestone 2, Medina 1
Barberton Division I District Semifinal
FIRESTONE 010 001 0 — 2 1 2
MEDINA 100 000 0 — 1 7 3
WP — Joe Durkee (8-1) 7 innings, 0 earned runs, 2 walks, 4 strikeouts. LP — Ryan Fischer (3-3) 2 innings, 1 run, 0 earned, 0 hits, 0 walks, 3 strikeouts. Firestone (22-8) — Shawn Gates double, RBI, stolen base. Medina (17-11) — Ethan Johnson 3 singles, run, 2 stolen bases; Kyle Adams 2 singles; Brenden Stewart double.