CHARLESTON - Notre Dame pushed across five runs on just two hits in the top of the fourth inning and used that as the catalyst to eliminate Gilmer County, 15-6, here Thursday afternoon at Appalachain Power Park in the Class A state semifinals.
Despite allowing an unearned run in the top of the first when leadoff hitter Chris Petrucci bunted, scooted to third on a three-base error and scored on Alex Murray's RBI single to left, Titan starter Adam Beall had a 2-1 cushion after three.
That came courtesy of No. 9 hitter Stephen Coleman drawing a walk, Austin Ratliff reaching on a fielder's choice and after an Austin Cunningham sacrifice, Nathan Allison delivered a two-run single to right in the third.
However, that advantage didn't last long as the Irish (27-7) took control with the five-run fourth and then a three-run fifth before blowing it open.
Things started to unravel for Beall in the fourth when he walked D.J. Murphy, who took an off speed 2-2 offering that the Titan faithful thought should've been a called third strike. A free pass to Josh Baker was followed by a Jordan Miller bunt and thanks to an error Murphy scored to tie the game. Another walk, this time to Kolby Abruzzino, loaded the bases, and Anthony Belcastro procuded a two-run single to left. After winning pitcher T.J. McKinsey sacrificed the runners to second and third, pinch-hitter Justin Goff laced a two-run double to left-center for a 6-2 lead.
Beall, who took the loss and went four innings while allowing three hits, seven runs and five earned runs to go along with five walks and five punchouts, was lifted after issuing a free pass to Baker to open the fifth. Cunningham then entered in relief, but allowed a single to Miller and then a two-run double to Belcastro.
Head coach Joe Frashure's Titans (25-11) refused to go down quietly, though, and answered Notre Dame's three-run fifth with one of their own. Singles by Coleman, Cunningham and Allison loaded the bases, which led to three runs. Coleman scored on a wild pitch and Seth Skinner laced a two-run double to left-center to make it a 9-5 contest.
Even though the Titans made it 9-6 with a tally in the sixth thanks to Cunningham's RBI fielder's choice that plated Colton Rose, who had walked, the Irish advanced to Saturday's 10 a.m. title game by finishing it out in style with a six-run seventh. Cunningham was chased after allowing a three-run double to McKinsey (5 IP, 6 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 1 BB, 4 SO). Abruzzino, Spencer Harlow and Murphy also had RBIs in the frame.
"They are just too good to give them what we gave them and then late they just started hitting it," Frashure said. "Early in the game there at one point they got the lead and we had outhit them. To get six runs in a game like this I'll take that and we had a chance to get more.
"But, they are just too good of a team, too well coached and too talented to give them anything. They just took over late. I'm still proud of our guys. It was a heck of a season to get us back here. I just wish we'd have came through today."