By ANDREW WILLIAMS
BLOOMDALE — Elmwood sophomore Trevor Solether admitted he was battling some nerves when he took the mound in the first inning of the Royals’ Division III sectional semifinal against Delta on Saturday.
That didn’t last long, though.
After fighting through a bumpy first inning, Solether took dead aim at the Panthers’ lineup. He allowed one unearned run on six hits, while compiling seven strikeouts and not issuing a walk in seven innings to lead Elmwood to a 10-1 victory.
The Royals, who improved to 9-11 on the year, advance to the sectional final at Swanton (9-7) on Thursday at 5 p.m.
It was Delta who had the upper hand early on as Andrew Stickley and Jeffrey McQuillen hit back-to-back singles with one out in the top of the first. Elmwood second baseman Dylan Hall couldn’t handle a line drive off the bat of Cody Matthews and Stickley scored from third base on the error.
Solether struck out the next two hitters to end the threat and kill just about any momentum the Panthers would have in the game.
“I was locating all my pitches really well,” Solether said. “I didn’t have my curveball really in control, but I was spotting my fastball really well today.”
After sending six batters to the plate in the first inning, the Panthers (7-12) never sent more than four in any inning the rest of the way and Solether recorded the complete game in 106 pitches.
“I was really nervous at first. First big game I’ve ever been in,” he said. “I just focused on throwing the ball to the glove, throwing a lot of strikes, depending on my defense and went up there and had confidence.”
Delta’s Blake Gladieux got off to a good start on the mound, only allowing a pair of singles through the first two innings thanks to Elmwood’s aggressiveness at the plate.
That all changed in the third when Tayte Lentz singled to right, Phillip Buckingham legged out a bunt single and Dylan Hall hit an RBI single to center to start off the inning. After Jacob Wise grounded out to first, Brett Jones smacked a two-RBI single to left that ended Gladieux’s day.
The sophomore suffered the loss, giving up three earned runs on eight hits in 21/3 innings.
Tyler Stone and Solether each singled off reliever Wyatt Bronson and eventually scored, as did Nolan Kerr, who reached on a walk.
The Royals sent 12 batters to the plate in the inning, scored seven runs on six hits and grabbed a 7-1 advantage.
“We just started staying back instead of getting out on the front foot and swinging early at everything,” said Elmwood assistant coach Kile Eichenaur, who filled in for 26-year veteran Kyle Reiser who was attending his daughter’s college graduation. “When you have an inning like that it’s a lot of fun. It just keeps rolling after that.”
Pitching with a lead, Solether went to work and shut down Delta’s offense. He faced just three hitters each in the fourth, sixth and seventh innings, giving up three singles and never allowing a runner to make it past first base.
“Give them credit. Their pitcher threw well today,” Delta coach Damon Mattimore said. “He shut us down from there on through after we had little rallies there in the first.
“We should have scored a couple more runs. We had runners in scoring position in the second and third, just couldn’t get it done. The kid stepped up, threw strikes and got us out.”
Wise walked to start the sixth for the Royals and scored on a wild pitch from Anthony Demaline. After Jones reached on a throwing error, Elmwood’s victory was punctuated by Jacob Firsdon’s two-run home run to center.
Stickley and McQuillen each tallied two singles to lead Delta, while Solether finished with three singles for the Royals.
Delta 100 000 0 — 1 6 2
Elmwood 007 003 x — 10 10 1
WP — Solether. LP — Gladieux. top hitters: (Del) Stickley 2-1B; McQuillen 2-1B. (Elm) Hall 1B, RBI; Jones 1B, 2 RBI; Solether 3-1B; Firsdon HR, 2 RBI; Lentz 1B, RBI.
records: Delta 7-12; Elmwood 9-11.