It would have been easy for Olentangy shortstop Connor Haag to swing for the fences the day after clubbing three home runs.
But, he stayed with his approach and collected three hits, including a go-ahead RBI double to lead the Olentangy baseball team back from a four-run deficit to beat Westerville Central 11-8 Friday night in Lewis Center.
“I was just going up there, seeing as many pitches as I could and hitting line drives,” Haag said. “(Yesterday) was pretty good … it was a nice feeling because before that I was struggling. So, it was a nice comeback.”
The win avenges Olentangy’s only OCC-Buckeye loss, also keeping it tied atop the OCC-Buckeye standings with rival Olentangy Liberty.
“They grew up and they got tough,” Olentangy coach Ryan Lucas said. “They could have folded easily … getting smacked two days ago.”
Olentangy (9-3, 5-1) has continued to play well despite the absence of a couple of its key players. Caden Kaiser (wrist) and Josh Moeller (hand) are due to be back by the end of next week.
“This year’s team is really deep and we knew that before the injuries,” Lucas said. “So, really all the injuries did was give guys the opportunities … and they’re taking advantage of those opportunities. It’s making us a better team. So, when Josh and Caden come back – it’s gonna put me in a position to make a difficult (decision). That’s what I want.”
Haag and Connor McCulty have stepped right in and flourished.
“(Haag’s) game is line drives,” Lucas said. “He got them up in the wind yesterday and made three really good swings. What he had yesterday is something that’s uncommon. He did a really great job of coming back and doing what he does – hitting line drives and making good plays.”
McCulty had two hits and scored twice, including the go-head run in the second inning off Haag’s double.
“He’s been on fire,” Lucas said. “He gets on base. Even when he’s down in the count – he’s putting the ball in play and he’s quick enough to get on base. So, he’s stepped up.”
Niko George gave the Warhawks the early lead with a RBI single in the first. Dax Mickley followed with a two-run double and Allen Smith followed with a RBI double later in the opening frame to push the lead to 4-0.
“It was sink or swim time and we challenged them when they came back into the dugout,” Lucas said.
Olentangy scored three times in the bottom half to get it close before rallying for four runs in the second to take the lead for good. Sutton Bucci’s two-run double provided the big blow in the inning.
“They had all the momentum being up 4-0 and our guys just had toughness,” Lucas said. “I was just really proud of our toughness through that adversity.”
Haag added a two-run double in the fifth to put the game out of reach at 11-5.
Central scored three runs in the sixth to get it to the final margin. Camron Hubble and George each had RBI singles to finish with two hits and a pair of RBI apiece.
Mickley drove in three runs on three hits to lead the Warhawks (6-5, 4-2) and Matt Beck tossed an inning-plus to take the loss.
Logan Ketron settled down after a rocky first inning, going five to get the win and Nate Wilhelm finished out the last two innings for Olentangy.
“Logan did a better job (after the first),” Lucas said. “I mean – he got really tough on the mound. His pitch count just got too high, so we had to take him out.”
Next up, Olentangy is slated to host Teays Valley in non-league action today at 11 a.m.
Follow Michael Rich on Twitter @mrichnotwealthy or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.