NILES - Cardinal Mooney pitcher Kane Durkin kept Niles batters off balance and frustrated in the Division II sectional final Friday at Wilder Field.
The 6-foot, 200-pound junior right-hander relied on a curveball and changeup that baffled the Red Dragons all day as the Cardinals rolled to a 6-1 victory to advance to a district semifinal Thursday at 4:30 p.m. at Cene Park.
"I don't really throw that hard, so I have to throw it off-speed," he said. "Everything was really working today."
Tribune Chronicle / Michael Taylor
Niles J.C. Pierko interferes with Cardinal Mooney catcher Drew Delsignore and he tries to catch the ball Friday during a Division II sectional final at Wilder Field. The Cardinals eliminated the Red Dragons, 6-1.
"He's been a horse. He lost a couple of games in the early part of the season because we kicked it around a little bit, but he's been there all the time," Mooney coach Al Franceschelli said. "He throws strikes, he's got a good breaking pitch. He's got command of three pitches (cutter, 12-to-6 curveball and two-seam fastball). He's had a great year this year."
Durkin (7-2) pitched a complete game, allowing just four hits and striking out three. He did not walk a batter.
"We knew Kane was going to come in with the breaking ball today," Niles coach Mike Guarnieri said. "To be honest with you, I thought we had really good at-bats. I think we struck out two times in the game. Circumstances of hitting the ball at them. They played very well defensively."
Franceschelli added that the strategy was to concentrate on throwing off-speed pitches to the top six of the Niles batting order and fastballs to hitters seven through nine.
Trailing 6-0, the best chance to get back in the game for Niles (18-9) came in the bottom of the sixth inning.
Pat Barrett began the inning with an infield single, but was taken out on a fielder's choice on a ball hit by Jake Foster. Ryan Ifft followed with a base hit to center to put two runners on and, Noah Arvin struck out, Ian Hileman lofted a fly ball to right fielder Pat Markovich.
The ball popped out of Markovich's glove for an error, scoring Foster. Ifft attempted to come around for a second run, but Markovich recovered and threw a strike to catcher Drew Delsignore, who applied a tag to get Mooney (17-10) out of the inning.
"I was a little nervous on the ball that dropped in right, but Markovich threw him out at home, so we were fine," Durkin said.
"That was a costly mistake on our part. Baserunning mistake right there," Guarnieri said. "At the end of the day, we just couldn't string anything consistently together in the other innings to put any pressure on them."
Durkin finished with a 1-2-3 seventh inning to close Niles out.
Leading 4-0, the Cardinals padded their advantage by two more runs in the fifth as Delsignore singled to left to score Frank Rondinelli and Brandon Sklenar.
Drew Beck had a two-run home run in the third inning for Mooney.