McDONALD - If anyone needs a coach to give his or her team a "rah-rah" speech after a rough inning, Matt Vukovic is the guy to call.
His Blue Devils were coming off an ugly half inning in which they committed two errors and allowed Mineral Ridge to tie a Division IV sectional final at 2. So, Vukovic called everyone into the dugout and gave them a piece of his mind.
"I just told them they were playing like babies, and they needed to step up and act like men - stop looking to blame each other for what was going on and just do the best they could," Vukovic said. "I told them before the game, I said, 'At the end of the day, I want you to be able to say you did your best,' and I kind of reiterated that fact at the end. This wasn't our best baseball, so let's get to it."
Tribune Chronicle / R. Michael Semple
Mineral Ridge’s Michael White dives back into first base as McDonald first baseman Ben Carkido waits to apply the tag in the first inning of their Division IV sectional final Thursday. The Blue Devils advanced to the district semifinal with a 16-2 victory.
Apparently, the village of McDonald produces great listeners.
The Blue Devils went off for 14 runs - 12 with two outs - in the following inning to roll past archrival Mineral Ridge, 16-2, in five innings. McDonald (19-4) plays another Inter Tri-County League foe, Jackson-Milton, in the district semifinal at 4 p.m. Wednesday at Cene Park in Struthers.
McDonald racked up seven hits and took advantage of five walks in the third inning to break open what most expected to a closely contested game. The Blue Devils beat the Rams, 15-2, earlier this year, but Mineral Ridge was playing better as of late and boasted hard-hitting catcher Dan Ferguson (seven doubles, six home runs, .500 batting average). It didn't matter on Wednesday.
McDonald wasn't about to let a few blunders in the field alter its focus.
"Right now our bats are hot," said Blue Devil senior Mike Raschilla, who parked a two-run homer in the first inning and allowed just three hits and one earned run over five innings. "We're peaking right now, especially at the plate - smarts (at-bats), putting the ball in play, not making easy outs for ourselves. We're clicking, and that's what we need to be doing during tournament time."
Raschilla's blast to left-center field was his fifth of the season. He also struck out eight and walked one to earn the win. Vukovic said the John Carroll-bound Raschilla studies the game on daily basis to find weaknesses of opposing players and fine tune his skills. And, Vukovic added, the kid can just flat out hit. Even better, so can everyone else.
"He hit one last night in pretty much the same spot - out in that parking lot somewhere," he said. "A lot of guys are starting to find their groove. Cameron Ifft has been the same way. They're just really starting to come around on it, and they're seeing everything really well right now. It's nice to have."
While Raschilla led the team with three hits and four RBIs, Christian Rusinowski added two hits, including a double, as did Matt Mann and Mike Soots. Soots added three RBIs and Manna two.
"We played outstanding today," Raschilla said, "and hopefully we can carry this over to districts."