There are those who believe baseball is a boring game. Ask the crowd at Wednesday night’s Olentangy-Hayes game how boring it is.
In a game where tension was high and fingernails chewed to the nub, the host Pacers scored the game-winning run on a wild pitch with two out in the bottom of the seventh for a 3-2 Senior Day victory over the Braves in a tight Ohio Capital Conference Capital Division contest at Fouts-Wood Field.
Despite the low score, there was no shortage of effort from either team. Hayes (14-6, 7-5 OCC Capital) and Olentangy (12-9, 7-3) played full tilt all game long.
“We really came out and competed today,” Hayes coach Ryan Montgomery said. “We’re playing solid defense and fielding the ball, and when we do that, we’re a solid baseball team. We hit the ball well, which is something we’ve been very consistent with this year and it’s something we can rely on. It gives you a little anxiety in the late innings, but that’s exactly what you want going into the tournament.”
“It wasn’t for a lack of effort,” Olentangy coach Ryan Lucas said. “I told our guys after the game I am extremely proud of their toughness and their heart. We said when we got off the bus we have to play as one, and it’s not necessarily like that every game with us, but I think if we can keep that mentality going into the tournament, we’re going to be just fine.”
Both teams had trouble stringing hits together, combining to leave 22 runners stranded. Olentangy stranded 12 runners, including eight in scoring position, while Hayes left 10 on, seven in scoring position.
“We were getting hits when there was a guy on first base or no one on,” Lucas said. “We have to start getting his when we have guys in scoring position. We got a big hit from Deeb in the sixth, but we have to keep that up.”
“I think the kids have learned, when we make great contact and it doesn’t fall, we have to believe it will next time,” Montgomery said. “Our hitters have never given up. We might have had our heads down at the beginning of the year, but we stayed consistent and it finally came through for us.”
With the score tied at two in the seventh, senior pitcher/catcher Greg Suber drew a four-pitch walk from Olentangy sophomore starter Collin Hoffman, who threw 105 pitches in the contest. Senior Nick Emery came on in relief, and coaxed Hayes junior right fielder Josh Daughenbaugh to pop up to Braves sophomore second baseman Christian McFarland near first base.
Hayes junior shortstop/pitcher Noble Moore then flared a single down the right field line to move Suber to second, and senior designated hitter Michael Sweeney appeared to hit a game-winning single to center field, but Olentangy junior center fielder Grant Helber made a quick pickup and threw Suber out trying to score. Moore went to third on the throw.
Emery then threw a first-pitch strike to Hayes junior first baseman Jake Brown, missed the strike zone with his second pitch, and threw his final pitch in the dirt past Braves junior catcher Joe McGuinness, allowing Moore to score the winning run.
“That’s what hurt us Monday against Mount Vernon and it hurt us today,” Lucas said. “That man didn’t score because Grant Helber made a great play to throw him out at the plate, but baseball says when you walk the first guy in an inning, that guy will score.”
The Braves opened the scoring in the second when Helber walked, took second on a one-out single by senior first baseman Austin Moore, and scored on a squeeze bunt by junior Drew Batt. Hayes got the run back in the third as Suber blooped a single to left to start the inning, went to second on a wild pitch, and scored on a two-out single to right center by Sweeney.
The Pacers took their first lead in the fifth. Suber drew a leadoff walk, went to second on another wild pitch, and scored on a hard hit, one-out double down the third base line by junior shortstop Noble Moore.
But Olentangy tied the game again in the sixth as Austin Moore hit a one-out single to left, took second on an error on a failed pickoff attempt, and scored on a single to right center from sophomore shortstop Deeb Haber.
Noble Moore earned the win in relief, allowing two hits with a walk and a hit batter while striking out one in an inning and a third. Suber worked the first 5 2/3 innings, allowing two runs, four hits and four walks with four strikeouts.
“Greg had a slight tear in his labrum and he threw his heart out,” Montgomery said. “We’ve been building up his pitch count all season, and he threw over 90 pitches today. We saw the Greg Suber of a season ago, and Noble came on in relief and wanted the ball and got the job done.”
Emery suffered the defeat in relief, giving up the winning run on two hits with a wild pitch in two-thirds of an inning. Hoffman worked the first six-plus, allowing two runs, six hits, five walks, a hit batter and three wild pitches while striking out six.
“Collin is a stud, but he got a little tired in the last inning” Lucas said. “He was up in the zone and we knew that. We wanted to see if he could get through it, but he gave us a great performance.”
Noble Moore had a double and a single and Sweeney two singles to lead the Pacer offense. Suber, Daughenbaugh, senior third baseman Colin Reed and senior outfielder Collin Hollingsworth added a single each.
Austin Moore had two hits to top the Olentangy offense. Haber, McFarland, Helber and senior left fielder Tim Feasel each added one single.
•The Golden Eagles took advantage of their opportunities Wednesday.
Big Walnut (11-12, 4-8 OCC), eyeing a winning regular-season campaign, turned seven hits and four walks into a 7-3 Ohio Capital Conference Capital Division victory over Franklin Heights on Senior Night in Sunbury.
The Golden Eagles jumped out to a 2-0 first-inning lead on singles by Brayden Shepherd and Jeremy Bok, who came around to score on Kyle Duncan’s 2-out double down the left field line.
Franklin Heights (3-16, 0-11 OCC), taking advantage of 2 of the Golden Eagles’ 4 errors, rallied for 2 unearned runs off Bok in the top of the third to tie the game at 2-2.
Big Walnut regained the lead with a run in the bottom of the third. Nick Moser led off the inning by being hit by a pitch, moved to second on a wild pitch and stole third, setting up Matt Tarney’s sacrifice fly for a 3-2 lead.
The Golden Eagles broke the game open with four runs in the fifth to take a 7-2 edge. With one out, Jakob Evans and Ryan Grieser drew walks before Brandon Daniels reached on an error, scoring Evans. Mike Blackburn moved the runners up with a sacrifice bunt before Moser delivered a double down the left field line, which scored both runners. Moser came home on Shepherd’s single to center.
The Falcons scored in the sixth on catcher’s interference, a stolen base, an error and a ground ball out.
Bok went the distance to pick up the mound win for Big Walnut. In his seven innings, he allowed three runs, one earned, on two hits. He did not issue a base on balls while striking out seven.
•Liberty continued its solid play down the stretch, overmatching visiting Thomas Worthington on the way to a 10-0 OCC-Central Division win Wednesday in Powell.
The Patriots, who improved to 19-5 with the win, scored four second-inning runs before adding two in the fourth and four more in the sixth to end the game an inning early. They outhit the Cardinals 11-5 while playing flawless defense in the field.
Cameron Comer, Justice Grieble and Danny Kirchner led the Liberty offense with two hits apiece. Grieble and Kirchner also added a game-high two RBIs apiece.
Jacob Niggemeyer picked up the complete-game win on the mound, striking out five.
•Kristen Adkins was brilliant in the circle, striking out 13 while allowing just one hit during Liberty’s 7-0 OCC-Central Division win over Dublin Coffman Wednesday in Powell.
Adkins was solid at the plate, too, finishing with a game-best three hits, a double and two singles, while driving in three runs. Other Patriot (15-5) standouts included Bailey Ankrim, Madison Kadlic, Tiffany Hart, Kaylin Lee and Keri Kelly, who finished with two singles apiece.