BROOKVILLE, Pa. – Scoring six runs in the first three innings alongside a solid pitching performance from Carter Hickman, Dubois Central Catholic defeated Clarion-Limestone 6-3 in a District 9 Class A semifinals.
Hickman worked 5 2/3 innings allowing three runs, one earned on five hits. He walked four and struck out seven. Kaden Brezenski pitched the final 1 1/3 innings not allowing a run on two hits.
“Carter Hickman was an absolute monster today,” said DCC head coach Adam Fox. “I’m so proud of how he stepped up and prepared for this game today. We are a battle-tested team, and we knew Clarion-Limestone had a couple of big arms and we prepared for that. We were able to get up early and that always helps come playoff time. Pitching and defense is the name of the game, and we had enough of both today.”
DCC got things started early by scoring a run in the top of the first inning, as Matt Pyne drew a leadoff walk. Pyne stole second and moved to third on a single by Hickman. After Hickman took second via defensive indifference, Damon Foster walked to load the bases. Brandin Anderson hit a sacrifice fly to score Pyne for a 1-0 lead. C-L starter Bryson Huwar then got a strikeout and a fielder’s choice to end the inning.
“It wasn’t Bryson’s best outing today,” said C-L head coach Todd Smith. “He started with a walk with that guy coming around to score and that hurt. He was pressing a little bit on the mound I think.”
C-L (10-4 overall) threatened in the bottom of the inning. Huwar and Hayden Callen each singled and Jordan Hesdon drew a walk to load the bases with two outs, but a strikeout ended the threat.
Missed scoring opportunities would be the story of the day for the Lions, as they finished the game with 10 runners left on base.
“We had opportunities today and we just didn’t make the most of them,’ said Smith. “Most of this season we’ve been driving those guys in when they’ve gotten on base. Today, we weren’t able to get them in.”
The Cardinals added two runs in the second inning, as Brezenski singled and stole second. He moved to third on an error off a ball hit by Zach Spellman. One out later, Hickman hit a two-run double for a 3-0 lead.
C-L scored their first run in the bottom of the second. Brady Fowkes drew a one-out walk ahead of a run-scoring double by Jake Smith to cut the lead to 3-1 after two.
In the third inning, DCC broke things open by scoring three runs to take a 6-1 lead. Anderson hit a single to lead off the inning off of Hayden Callen, who came in to relieve Huwar. Dante Armanini then smacked an 0-2 pitch over the right-field wall for a two-run home run. Brezenski then drew a one-out walk and then came around to score on a double by Cartar Kosko for a 6-1 lead.
“That Home Run made the score 5-1 I think at the time,” said Fox. “When you get that fourth or fifth run in a tight game, it settles the guys down. It means a lot and changes the momentum of the game. If it’s still a one or two-run game any error you make, things can go the other way quickly, so that was a pretty big hit for us.”
C-L scored a run in the fourth as Fowkes walked and moved to second on a wild pitch. Fowkes went to third on the throw off a ground out to third base by Jake Smith, and Fowkes then scored when the throw to third sailed high to cut the lead to 6-2.
The final Lions run scored in the fifth, as Huwar doubled to lead off the inning. He moved to third on an error by the shortstop off a ground ball by Callen. Huwar then scored on a wild pitch to cut the lead to 6-3, but that would be as close as C-L would get.
C-L would get two runners on after two outs in the sixth but wouldn’t score.
“You have to hand it to DCC,” said Todd Smith. “They hit the ball today. I wouldn’t say it was anything we did or didn’t do, DCC just went out and got it. They made good contact and scored some early runs. We had chances with getting guys on, but we just didn’t drive them in today.”
Hickman and Brezenski each collected two hits for DCC with Hickman driving in two runs. Anderson, Armanini, and Kosko each added one hit. Armanini drove in two runs while Anderson and Kosko each added one RBI. Brezenski scored two runs.
“I can’t say enough about how our guys have come out these last two games,” said Fox. “We’ve had such a good approach both at bat and in the field. We got outs when we needed to. It’s playoff baseball, so you know you are going to make a few mistakes, but we did a good job overcoming the ones we made today.”
Huwar and Callen each had two hits to lead C-L. Tommy Smith, Corbin Coulson, and Jake Smith each added one hit. Huwar and Jake Smith each hit doubles. Brady Fowkes scored two runs off a pair of walks.
Huwar pitched two innings allowing three runs, one earned on three hits. He walked two and struck out three. Callen worked the final five innings allowing three earned runs on four hits. He walked one and struck out five.
“I’m so proud of our kids,” said Todd Smith. “It’s tough when it comes down to just one game. We had to win nine games in a row to get the league and then have it come down to one game is tough. Today we didn’t play our best game which stinks.”