Timely hits, strong pitching from Hall guide Hilltoppers to 4-1 victory – News-Herald

CANTON — All it took was a passed ball, and Chardon lunged for Chagrin Falls.

Nolan Kirsh hit the catcher to the plate for the starting shot that put the Hilltoppers ahead in their pitcher duel in a Division II regional semifinal.

In the same at-bat, Stone Fawcett gave the defense a little more breathing room with a hit to the left that allowed Jake Barker to move from third place. Chardon won 4-1 to reach the regional finals for the first time since 2012.

The Hilltoppers return to Munson Stadium on June 3 to take on Louisville, who defeated University in the other semifinal.

“Seeing Nolan come in took a lot of the pressure off my shoulders,” Fawcettl said. “I was the guy who had to do those runs and waving Nolan in made my job a lot easier. I was able to take the ball the other way and it was deep enough to make another run.”

It took the Chardon bats a while to find their rhythm against Leo Fornara on the hill for Chagrin Falls. The Tigers pitcher batted a nine and let Chardon play from behind for the first three innings.

Chardon coach Brian Long knew the Hilltoppers’ offense had to find a way to get things moving. Even after they leveled the game when Nolan drove Kirsh into a run, Long’s message to his racquets remained the same.

“Leo is a phenomenal pitcher and Chagrin is a talented team,” Long said. “We had to get the guys on base and put pressure on their defense. We said at the beginning of the game that we just have to score in time. Stone Fawcett came in there and was able to push over the one we needed.”

Christian Hall kept the game within reach for Chardon with an outstanding performance from the mound. Hall went the distance, batting five and giving up four hits. He only allowed four baserunners for Chagrin Falls.

Hall was tasked with countering an order from Chagrin Falls, which has strong bats in every part of the lineup. However, with the runners limited, Hall controlled the zone and edited the counts at his discretion.

“It’s difficult, but that’s where mixing pitches comes in,” Hall said. “I was focused on hitting my points and I know Leo is a great shooter for them too. We’re on the same summer team and they have a lot of great players. Keeping the ball down and away from him worked really well today. I tried the same against their four-hitter and the one time I didn’t, he got his hands on it and I thought it was gone. Mixing in my slider and curve was really important today.”

While serving from behind or in a tied game, it was a situation Long knew Hall was perfect for. Hall’s performance kept the game within reach for the Hilltoppers offense and proved a challenge for Chagrin Falls after early success.

PHOTOS: Chardon vs. Chagrin Falls Baseball, June 2, 2022

“He lives for moments like that, he came into the dugout after we took the lead and said we were going to win this game,” Long said. “He’s a two-time national soccer champion and knows he’s already playing at the next level. When you give a guy a ball in his senior year when all he has to do now is baseball, a player like Christian Hall thrives.”

When Chagrin Falls put the ball in play, the defense kept supporting Hall. At the end of the fourth inning, second baseman Will Francis dived for what could have been an extra base hit to get out of the inning.

“Defending is one of our best qualities as a team,” Hall said. “He’s very crisp and clean so when Will hit the ball over I knew without a doubt he had it. We defend every possession hard and know we can handle any live ball that comes our way.”

Andrew Kirkpatrick put Chagrin Falls ahead with a double that allowed Fornara to score from second place.

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