The Olentangy Liberty baseball team found a way to win Friday’s 10-inning marathon at rival Olentangy in OCC-Buckeye play.
And the Patriots left no stone unturned in doing so, using power, speed and solid fundamentals in their 6-4 victory to take control of the conference race.
“Baseball was meant to be played in this fashion at the high school level,” Liberty coach Ty Brenning said. “You wouldn’t want to live on the difference because the difference was that thin.”
Corbin Parrish led off the 10th with a single, went first to third on Mitch Milheim’s base hit and scored on a Connor Osmond sacrifice fly to give Liberty the lead. Justin Nelson drove home Milheim to account for the final margin.
Parrish also made a pair of highlight-worthy catches in the eighth on back-to-back plays, diving to take hits away from Bradyon Chitty and Caden Kaiser.
“The first one I thought I could get to and it was a real big adrenaline booster for me,” Parrish said. “The second was a little lower and I didn’t think I was going to get to it, but I made the catch.”
“Corbin’s been a spark-plug for us for two years now,” Brenning said. “He’s a kid that likes these big moments and isn’t going to back down from anybody.”
Despite their familiarity, both teams executed scoring plays the other has seen dozens of times before.
Liberty, which was thwarted in its double-steal play earlier, executed it so perfectly by Michael Osmond and Carson Comer in the ninth that the pitcher didn’t even make a throw. Osmond scored on the play to give the Patriots a 4-3 lead.
“I think one of our strengths is that our kids are pretty detailed,” Brenning said. “We have kids that have bought into our system, we have kids that are smart and we have kids that are athletic and trust their instincts. We wanna pitch with an aggressive mindset, we wanna hit in that manner and we wanna run the bases in that manner, and I think our kids just like the style and that brand of baseball.”
“Every single thing that they did – we went over,” Olentangy coach Ryan Lucas said. “We have it in our package to practice it because Liberty is the only one that runs it. We practice it in February, in March, in April. We just lost focus for five seconds.”
Olentangy countered with its trusted squeeze bunt in the ninth to tie it up again. Logan Ketron, who had a team-high three hits and led off the inning with a base hit, was already three-quarters of the way home by the time Connor Haag put bat on ball to score the tying run.
It was a game of missed opportunities for both teams too.
Liberty took the early lead on a Brennan Rowe triple to lead off the second. Milheim followed with a double to score him.
But, the next two batters couldn’t move him to third. So, when Michael Osmond lined a base hit to right, Olentangy’s Cole Robinson came up throwing – firing a perfect one-hopper to catcher Lucas Hassinger to gun down the runner.
“You gotta give them credit because they made plays when they needed to make plays,” Lucas said. “They got hits when they needed to get hits and they made plays and we did not. We had that game won five times and we just didn’t make plays.”
Olentangy had a 3-2 lead on a Ketron RBI double, an error and a Tyler Karbler sacrifice fly when it had bases loaded and one out and couldn’t add to its lead.
It was also a game of solid pitching by both staffs with Liberty’s Jack Metzger and Ketron going the front five before giving way to relievers Beau Foster and Caden Kaiser.
“Jack Metzger competed as our starting pitcher,” Brenning said. “He didn’t have his best stuff, but he was able to do enough to keep us in the game.”
Foster has proven to be a vital reliever for the Patriots (14-2, 8-1). He worked the final 1.1 innings of Thursday’s win over Westerville Central for the save before tossing 5 innings against Olentangy, allowing a run (earned) on three hits and four walks with a pair of strikeouts for the win.
“Beau Foster’s effort was unbelievable,” Brenning said. “He’s a senior and this means the world to him and I thought it showed tonight.”
This after he pitched in both games of last Saturday’s doubleheader, including 1.2 innings against Mount Vernon before tossing 4 no-hit innings in the capper against Big Walnut.
“I just take care of my body and stretch it out real good during school,” Foster said. “Coach said it from day one when we walked in the program, ‘Keep fighting and you’ll be a part of something special.’ This year is something special.”
Kaiser was saddled with the loss, pitching 5 innings and allowing 4 runs (2 earned) on 4 hits and a pair of walks for Olentangy (11-4, 6-2).
“It was a great game … it was an outstanding game,” Lucas said. “I thought the pitchers threw well – their pitchers and our pitchers.”
Olentangy still has two meetings left against Liberty, including one in Powell Monday.
Next up, both teams play doubleheaders today. Olentangy plays New Albany and host Gahanna Lincoln, while Olentangy Liberty welcomes Grove City and Cleveland St. Ignatius. Games at both venues are scheduled begin at 11 a.m.
Follow Michael Rich on Twitter @mrichnotwealthy or contact him at email@example.com.