By Michael Rich
Cael Baker hit a two-run homer as part of a five run first inning and Josh Oddi had four hits to lead Gahanna Lincoln past Big Walnut 10-5 in an OHSAA Region 2 semifinal Thursday in Dublin.
“Gahanna’s a good ball club … they kept scoring every time we scored,” Golden Eagles coach Chris Holly said. “We couldn’t close the gap on them.”
The Lions (26-3) put up eight runs in the first two innings to put the game out of reach early.
Carl Turner singled in the first to set up Baker’s homer. Zach McDougle hit a sacrifice fly to score the third run and Noah Laurent scored two on a ball that took a bad hop at second and bounced into right field off reliever Henry von Hollen, who tossed the final 6.2 innings.
“I think it was a little bit of nerves,” Holly said about starting pitcher Tommy Fleser, who had a 1.85 ERA coming into the game with the second most innings pitched this season.
“He gave up the home run and it shook him up a little,” Holly said. “He didn’t have his best stuff.”
Fleser will play football and baseball at Ohio Northern next season.
“He’s pitched in all of the big games (this season) … he pitched against Liberty,” Holly said. “He solidified our No. 1 spot this year. Hopefully guys learned from him. It’s sad to see Tommy go because he’s a good kid and a good athlete.”
Oddi had a RBI single, McDougle drove in a run on a ground out and Laurent singled in a third run to push the lead to 8-0. Oddi also drove in Gahanna’s ninth and 10th runs with RBI doubles in the third and fifth innings.
Jackson Wolf allowed five runs (one earned) on eight hits over a complete seven innings to get the win for Gahanna.
Nick Green doubled in the second and scored on an error to get BW on the board. Nick Moser reached on an error and later scored on an Andrew Klamfoth hit in the third to cut the deficit to 8-2.
“That’s the way they’ve been all year,” Holly said. “They don’t say quit until the game is over. They battled the whole game.”
BW took advantage of two more errors in the third to plate three runs. Green walked and Jacob Young and Austin Becker each had hits to load the bases.
“We were down 8-0 and we didn’t pack it in,” Holly said. “Once they started playing relaxed, good things happened.”
Moser drove in the first run on a chopper to third before back-to-back errors brought home two more for the Eagles (20-11).
For the second straight season, BW made a deep run in the tournament with wins over Licking Heights, Olentangy Liberty and Pickerington Central on its way to a second straight district title. But, unlike last season’s final four run, the Eagles did it in Division I.
“We’re one of the smallest schools in D-1 – it says a lot just to get here,” Holly said. “We told them (after the game) that we were proud of them and it was a heck of a season. They have nothing to hang their heads about.”
The Eagles lose Klamfoth, Moser, Evans, Green and Young along with Fleser, who are all seniors.
Gahanna will face Pickerington North in the regional final today at 5 p.m.
Follow Michael Rich on Twitter @mrichdelgazette.