Downs' pitching, clutch hitting help Ryle reach semifinals
May 29, 2012Larry A. Ryle High School
Ryle senior pitcher Mark Downs has been good enough this season to not only consistently shut down opposing batters, but at times apparently mesmerize his own teammates at the plate, too.
Those teammates snapped out of their trance long enough to get three straight two-out RBI hits, Downs went six strong innings and the Raiders survived a seventh-inning rally to hold off Holy Cross, 4-2, in a first-round game of the Ninth Region Tournament on Monday at Florence Freedom Field.
Ryle (27-11-1), which is participating in its first Ninth Region Tournament since 2009, advances to play Newport Central Catholic in a semifinal game at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday at Florence Freedom Field. NewCath (22-16-1) advanced with an 8-1 win over St. Henry in Monday’s final first-round game behind five shutout innings by junior Josh Cain, who also added a two-run triple in a five-run sixth inning. Senior Andy Miller drove home NewCath’s first two runs with a single in the fifth.
As was expected, Downs, a University of Cincinnati signee who struck out 18 in Ryle’s 1-0 win over Cooper in last week’s 33rd District semifinal, and Holy Cross senior right-hander Kyle Fuller were hooked up in a pitcher’s duel through the first three innings, with each having allowed a run in the first.
Ryle sophomore right fielder Eric Clarkson led off the bottom of fourth with a single, but was still at first two outs later. Junior left fielder Tyler Mason, then doubled Clarkson home with an opposite field double down the line in third baseline, junior second baseman Jackson Brennan then singled home Mason and Brennan came home when junior center fielder Thomas Baumann doubled to deep center, putting the Raiders on top 4-1.
“Sometimes we sit around watching (Downs) work and we don’t hit, but they came through with two outs,” said Ryle coach Pat Roesel. “There have been a few times we’ve done a good job with two outs.”
Downs, who allowed a run-scoring triple to Fuller in the first, retired 13 batters in a row from the second inning through the first batter in the sixth inning. He allowed three hits, one walk, hit one batter and struck out nine, including at least one batter in each of the six innings he pitched.
Roesel pulled Downs after six innings to allow him to come back to start Thursday’s championship game if Ryle makes it that far.
Senior Brian Ernst started the seventh and got the first two outs, but then junior Michael Hewitt reached on an error, senior Sam Mershon, the No. 9 hitter, lined a 3-2 pitch for a single and senior Connor Callery singled home Hewitt to cut the deficit to 4-2.
Roesel brought Tanner Pulice in to face Rick Pangallo and after falling behind 3-0, Pulice threw two strikes and got Pangallo to fly out to left field to end the game.
Downs was warming back up and would have faced Holy Cross junior standout Blake Tiberi, who has committed to the University of Louisville, if Pangallo had reached.
After Holy Cross took its 1-0 lead in the top of the first, Ryle answered with a run in the bottom of the inning when senior shortstop Leiff Clarkson led off with a single, stole second, went to third when Fuller threw a ball into center trying to pick Clarkson off and then scored on senior Bryan Comora’s ground out to short.
“It was really big to answer,” said Clarkson. “It gave our team confidence and gave us a little push and it kind of set up the fourth inning for us.”
Downs threw 86 pitches in the game, 62 for strikes and allowed only two balls to be hit out of the infield from the second inning through the first batter in the sixth.
“He was up with his in the bullpen before the game and the pitch to Fuller was up, but once he started getting it down and his curve was working pretty well he was on,” said Roesel. “It took him an inning. He’s got a level head. That obviously didn’t rattle him at all. I wasn’t worried about it, because of his head.”
Downs said he felt like get got into a nice rhythm after the first inning.
“I was just trying to basically get through the first 4-5 guys in the lineup and thought I would be pretty good after that,” said Downs. “It feels good to get some run support.”