There was only one way to grade Carlo Kazmierczyk’s pitching performance in the District 6 Class AA playoff opener: On the curve.
The Richland High School senior left-hander used his breaking ball to keep Marion Center hitters out of sync on Friday at Highland Park.
Kazmierczyk struck out 13 batters in a three-hitter as the Rams beat the Stingers 2-0 and advanced to Monday’s 6-AA quarterfinal round.
“That’s probably the best I’ve had my curveball all year,” Kazmierczyk said. “I got ahead really, really early in the counts. First-strike curveballs were working great. Anytime I can work off of my curveball I usually have a good day.”
Good, as in 91 pitches, with 65 for strikes.
Kazmierczyk struck out the side in order in the top of the seventh. He fanned two batters in the third, fourth, fifth and six innings and had at least one strikeout each inning.
“Carlo faced this team earlier in the season in the Homer-Center Tournament,” Richland coach John Sidor said of a 10-0 win on April 26. “He did a great job then and we figured we’d go with him again this time. He had 13 strikeouts and one walk.”
Richland (15-5-1) tallied single runs in the fourth and sixth innings, as Marion Center right-hander Matt Shank was nearly as effective on the mound. Shank limited the Rams to three hits.
“Both pitchers did a great job of keeping the batters off-balance,” Marion Center coach Paul DeHaven said after his team closed a 9-8 season. “Both were in the strike zone. There were very few walks. Defensively both teams did a real good job. It was just a good, clean high school baseball game.”
Sixth-seeded Richland, which advances to face No. 3 Bellwood-Antis on the road on Monday, plated the eventual winning run after Nico Pecora walked, moved up on Nathan Ziants’ ground out and scored on Jake Buchanan’s sharp single to center field in the fourth.
“I was just looking for my pitch,” Buchanan said. “He threw it where I wanted it and I hit it back up the middle. Nico was fast enough to get in from second.”
In the sixth, Tyler Mikesic was hit by a pitch with one out. An error and a wild pitch led to the second run.
“It was a full team effort,” Kazmierczyk said.
Johnny Kutchman and Ryan Onderko each singled for Richland’s other hits.
“Their pitcher (Shank) did a great job,” Sidor said. “He had us off stride. Our bats weren’t there today. Hats off to both pitchers.”
Shank was solid at the plate, too. He had all three of Marion Center’s hits out of the leadoff spot. He beat out an infield single in the first, had an opposite field bloop single to left in the third, and reached on a bunt in the sixth.
Shank was one of two Stingers batters not to strike out.
“He located all of his pitches well and usually worked ahead in the count,” DeHaven said of Kazmierczyk. “His curve ball got better as the game went. He really threw that curve ball at the back foot of our right-handed batters. It just dropped in there. His fastball was accurate and kept us off-balance.”
Mike Mastovich is a sports writer for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/masty81.