Stern's gem leads Walsh past Dover 3-1 in Division I baseball district final
EUCLID — Under sweltering conditions Tuesday at Stanic Field in Euclid, Walsh Jesuit and Dover combined to score 28 runs in their respective Division I district semifinal wins.
Conditions were much different Thursday at Stanic for the district title game, as temperatures hovered in the low 60s with the wind blowing in from Lake Erie.
Such conditions were conducive to a pitchers' duel — especially with pitchers the caliber of Walsh's Erik Stern and Dover's Ayden Hall on the mound.
Hall pitched a perfect game earlier this spring, and Stern had an ERA of 0.00.
Both pitchers showed their stuff, but the better pitcher Thursday was Stern, who took a no-hitter into the seventh inning to lead the Warriors to a 3-1 win.
Walsh (24-3) advanced to the regional semifinal at 5 p.m. June 3 at Field of Dreams in Louisville. The Warriors will face Mentor, which defeated Green 1-0 Thursday to win the Hudson district.
Walsh coach Chris Kaczmar said Stern was as good as he had been all spring.
"Erik was absolutely fantastic today," Kaczmar said. "That excellence is what we've [gotten] from him pretty much all season. He does things not many can do, given that he's 6-foot-8. With an arm angle like his, our hitters say when they have to face him, it's really challenging."
Stern, a senior, finished with a two-hitter, allowing one run and striking out 12.
Kaczmar also said the Warriors, who finished with nine hits, could have had more under better conditions.
"We hit some balls hard today," Kaczmar said. "The wind probably took some hits away from us, but we had some good at-bats."
While acknowledging Stern's excellent game, Dover coach Jeff Fondriest complimented the Tornadoes (22-5) for fighting until the end.
"Their boy was really good on the mound," he said. "We haven't seen a pitcher that tall with that kind of velocity. Credit to our players [for] battling through. We were able to give ourselves a chance.
"It was a great season for us. We've never won a sectional title at the Division I level and we've never won a district game. To play for the district title was special."
Hall did his part to keep the Tornadoes close. He pitched a complete game, giving up three earned runs on the nine hits with one strikeout.
"I think we did a good job behind him," Fondriest said. "I thought he became more comfortable as the game went on. He's a junior, so we're looking forward to next year."
Both coaches acknowledged a quick start by Walsh was a key to the game.
In the bottom of the first, Jake Armsey led off with a single and scored on a double by Stern. Stern scored on a bad-hop single by Kasey Kish.
With the 2-0 lead, Stern was in command, pitching a perfect game through four innings.
"I was comfortable throwing all of my pitches today for strikes," he said. "My change-up was really moving and my sidearm [fastball] was getting [in] for strikes."
Stern also helped Walsh add an insurance run in the fifth, when he hit a one-out single. Pinch runner Topher Salek came on and stole second base, and scored on a single by Mason Eckleman to make it 3-0.
Dover stayed within shouting distance behind Hall and with some solid defense. The Tornadoes turned a double play and threw out two Warriors attempting to steal.
But the Tornadoes didn't have a ball leave the infield until the seventh inning. Even so, they made it interesting.
After Mason Stoldt drew a lead-off walk in the seventh, Brennan McCune broke up the no-hitter with a single inside third base.
Following a fly out, Connor McGarry hit a potential double-play ball, but an errant relay throw allowed Stoldt to score on a fielder's choice.
It was the first run Stern gave up this season.
"I just had to stay calm," he said. "I just had to trust my defense. It felt pretty good."
Stern's calm was tested when Dover's Tyler Little singled and he hit Nolan Kellicker to load the bases.
Stern closed the game by getting a called strike three on Evan Klar.
Stern said Walsh's senior class would like a bit of revenge against Mentor at regional. In the 2019 regional final at Louisville, Mentor eliminated the Warriors with a 7-5 win.
"Don't overlook anyone and just take it one game at a time," Stern said. "I think [two years ago] we were totally focused on Jackson. Against Mentor, the tires fell off for us."