Brad Bournival

PARMA: This time Goliath won.

Highland’s baseball team came into its first Division I regional semifinal with eyes wide open. The problem Thursday was regional regular Cleveland St. Ignatius was there to close them — and did with an 8-2 win at Cuyahoga Community College.

Riding the arm of Louisville recruit Connor Adams, St. Ignatius (21-11) moved on to a regional final against Whitehouse Anthony Wayne (24-6) on Friday at Bowling Green State University.

“That’s a good team over there,” Hornets coach Jay Grissom said. “They came out and we missed a couple pitches up in the zone and, bang, it’s 1-0. I mean, like that. We had base runners. We had opportunities. We just couldn’t string anything together.”

Thanks to Adams, Highland (18-10) didn’t have many as the 6-foot left-hander kept the damage to a minimum.

While the junior was a shade below his norm with six strikeouts, Adams (6-3, 0.91 ERA, 68 strikeouts) found the outside corner up in the zone and lived there.

It forced a lot of ground balls to the right side and let the Hornets get themselves out.

Adams walked three, but only went to ball three on one other batter and finished with a three-hitter. Two of those hits and one of those RBI went to Adam Nagy, but other than a single by Greg Loeding, there wasn’t much else coming off Highland’s bats.

“We weren’t that aggressive offensively,” Nagy said. “Probably one of the things we could have done better was attack the fastball early in the count.”

Things unraveled quickly for Highland as Nick Freund greeted Thomas Ruth (4-1) with a triple to left-center field to open things. Joe Evans jumped on Ruth’s next pitch for a double and before the Hornets could get used to the artificial infield/natural grass outfield it was 1-0.

The Wildcats added another run when Kevin Mingus intentionally got caught in a rundown to let Evans score. Tack on three unearned runs in the second inning and the Hornets found themselves in a hole almost immediately.

“Obviously any team, no matter how mentally tough they are, that’s a big disappointment, especially after the first two innings,” Loeding said. “That set us back. We still came out strong. We came out exactly how we should have, [but] we just made a few mistakes those first couple of innings.”

It allowed Adams, who pitched St. Ignatius to the state semifinals last season, to find his comfort zone early and never let up.

“That took the pressure off me,” Adams said. “It allowed me to get into a groove and not worry about letting up a run or two. If we didn’t score a run those first few innings or only scored one run, then it would have been harder for us to come back.”

While the nucleus of the team graduates for Highland, the first senior class that fourth-year coach Grissom has seen all the way through leaves a steady foundation for the future.

“It’s a lot of fun winning, but we created bonds you can’t get anywhere,” Highland first baseman Hunter Rinard said. “I played football, but I’m closer with these guys. I’ve played baseball with these guys since I was 8 years old. That’s what it’s all about. You have to have some fun.”