Whenever the Christian Brothers Academy baseball team runs into Westhill, its level of play seems to rise to an absurd degree.
That proved true again on a chilly Wednesday afternoon, where the Brothers clinched the OHSL Liberty division regular-season title with a tense 7-6 victory over the Warriors that complete a sweep of both regular-season meetings between the two long-time powers.
When they had first played earlier in the month, CBA won 7-2 behind Matt Croglio's strong pitching and spectacular defense from, among others, shortstop Pete Clarke.
In the rematch at Westhill, a new cast of stars would shine, starting with Mike Kitts. With Croglio not wanting to aggravate a sore back muscle in the cold conditions, Kitts took over - this in the midst of a week where Kitts was participating in the Section III boys golf championships.
So just 24 hours before teeing it up at Seven Oaks in Hamilton, Kitts squared off against Westhill's vaunted lineup of hitters, and it would be close all the way through.
Five times in the first five innings, the lead changed hands. CBA grabbed slim 1-0, 3-2 and 5-4 advantages, only to see them all get away. Even so, Kitts constantly kept Westhill from the big rally, and soon enough the defense would help him out, too.
It started when catcher Shaun McGraw made a sliding catch on a foul pop-up to end the fifth inning. Moments later, McGraw, at the plate, launched a home run over the center-field fence, giving CBA a 6-5 lead.
More Westhill errors (the Warriors had five on the day) made it 7-5 going to the bottom of the sixth, where left fielder Bryant Moore would steal the spotlight.
Kitts appeared to be in deep trouble when no. 9 hitter Mike McMullen led off with a single. As the big Westhill hitters (Mike Mascari, Mike DeCarr, P.J. Niedzwiecki loomed), Dan Karleski lined a ball to left that appeared headed for the wall, and for extra bases.