Admittedly nervous for the biggest start of his career Friday, Newark Catholic’s Drew Buchanan quickly had his nerves soothed by his hot-hitting teammates.
The Green Wave scored two runs at the start and never let up, continuing its postseason onslaught with a 9-1 rout of Convoy Crestview in a Division IV state semifinal at Huntington Park.
Buchanan’s four-hitter — with two strikeouts and just one walk as he let the defense do the work — gave NC (24-10) a shot at a seventh state title. They’ll play here at noon Sunday against New Middletown Springfield (21-7), a 13-7 winner against Tinora.
Chayce Crouch had an RBI single in the first and Aaron Jurden a run-scoring fielder’s choice as the Green Wave led 2-0. Each had three RBI as NC had 14 hits and knocked out Knights’ ace Damian Helm, who was 9-0 with an 0.79 ERA coming in.
“We wanted to hug the plate because he likes to pitch outside, and we wanted to be able to make contact with the outside pitch,” Jurden said. “Make good contact and good things will happen.”
“His location was usually down, usually outside,” Green Wave coach John Cannizzaro said. “It was a good idea to jam up on the plate. Our top five hitters had 11 hits, and that’s not a surprise. They’re seeing the ball well.”
James Thomas doubled and scored on a wild pitch in the third, and Hunter Nance beat out an infield hit and scored on Jurden’s groundout as NC led 4-0.
After Crestview (19-8) scored its only run in the fourth, the Green Wave went up 6-1 in the fifth on Crouch’s RBI groundout and Jurden’s run-scoring single. Crouch had an RBI single in the seventh and Mitch Cox had a two-run double.
That was more than enough for Buchanan, and NC can now turn to ace Cox in the final.
“After the first inning, I calmed my nerves and everything went up from there,” Buchanan said. “Everyone is nervous to start a big game on a big stage. It helped that we scored two runs. I got a lot of run support, and everything else just flowed. My curveball got better the third or fourth inning, so I had a good grasp on that.”
Cannizzaro did not expect a complete game, Buchanan’s first and one of few thrown by Green Wave pitchers.
“He’s had a good strike zone the entire month of May,” Cannizzaro said.
“Drew had an amazing game,” Jurden said. “He was relaxed on the mound and took it pitch by pitch. Even if he gave up a hit, he came back on the next pitch.”
Nance had three hits and scored three runs for NC, which played like a team not satisfied just to be there. Crouch also had three hits, Thomas had a pair of doubles, and Mike Lohr, Jurden and David Meurer contributed two singles apiece.
“They made it easy on me,” Cannizzaro said. “This is a highly wound group, and we as coaches sometimes have to get them to stay on an even keel.”
“We all took 60 seconds in the outfield before the game to take it all in (and) get rid of the jitters,” Jurden said. “We really have been taking it one game at a time.
“Like coach (Ed) Clark said, this was game seven of eight. Now we get to focus on the biggest one of all. We’re ready.”
Cannizzaro said he expects the same approach his team has shown during a tournament run that has seen them outscore opponents 108-7: Relentless.
“Our last time here (a semifinal loss to Minster in 2011), some of the kids remember it, and it’s motivated them,” he said. “They don’t want to lose their last game again.”