Piedmont blanks Cavs, wins league
Piedmont High didn't want to share the Rocky River Conference championship with archrival Cuthbertson, and the Panthers don't have to after a convincing 7-0 win that spoiled the Cavaliers' Senior Day Friday afternoon.
The Panthers completed a perfect run through the RRC (12-0) and reached 20 wins overall (20-2) while breaking the Cavs' (10-2, 14-5) seven-game winning streak.
"We told them all week we wanted the outright championship but after Thursday's practice we reminded the guys the pressure's on them," said Piedmont coach Milt Flow. "Co-championship, we didn't want that. I mean we would have been happy with it, but we said let's go ahead and leave no doubt."
Leading 2-0, Piedmont blew the game open with five runs on six hits in the top of the sixth.
After Nigel Hester reached with a one-out single, Hunter Purser knocked him in by slicing a double to right field. Austin Harding plated Purser with a single, Jonathan Caldwell followed with a single, and John Elwood kept the rally going by blooping a two-out, two-RBI double down the first-base line.
After Cameron Price walked, Colby Barnette ripped a single to left that scored Elwood and pushed the lead to 7-0.
Piedmont pounded out 12 hits. Caldwell finished 3-for-4 with two runs and a stolen base and Barnette went 3-for-4 with two RBI.
"That's the best I've hit the ball this year," said Caldwell, a senior first baseman. "I've been working in the cage a lot and staying after practice to work on some things and it's finally starting to click. I've been working on my timing and today I was seeing the ball the full 60 feet."
Harding was 2-for-4 with an RBI and a run scored, and was one of seven Panthers with at least one hit.
"Everybody contributed to this win," Flow said. "We hit the ball well up and down the lineup. We played great defense and Corey (Sikes) pitched well."
Sikes, a junior lefty, improved to 6-0 on the mound by scattering four hits over 6.1 innings.
"I was feeling pretty good out there," Sikes said. "I kept them off balance pretty well. I have a great defense behind me so all I had to do was throw strikes."
Cuthbertson senior center fielder Drake Zupcic was a bright spot, going 2-for-3 with a walk.
Piedmont got on the board in the third inning when Harding led off with a standup double over the right fielder's head. After Caldwell pushed him to third with a perfect bunt single, catcher Cody Purser picked up the game-winning RBI with a sacrifice fly.
Caldwell added an insurance run in the fifth. He reached on a one-out single, moved to second on Cody Purser's single and came around on Price's double to right that made it 2-0.
Piedmont was 1-5 against Cuthbertson the previous two years, so sweeping the Cavs in the regular season is an achievement.
"This is good for our confidence going into the conference tournament and the state playoffs," Caldwell said. "We know everybody's gunning for us now so we've got to come out and play hard every day."
Piedmont has earned a first-round bye for next week's Rocky River Conference tournament. The first round is at the higher seed while the semifinals and title game will be played at West Stanly.