Olentangy Orange baseball coach Phil Callaghan sat legs crossed in the dugout after his Pioneers knocked off Central Crossing 9-0 in the second round of the district tournament Wednesday in Lewis Center.
The 29-year coaching veteran usually spends his postgame interviews talking about 90s.
He strayed from his normal routine this time. He even asked assistant Matt Lattig to drag the field – a pastime he reserves for himself.
Callaghan tells it like it is. He hands out compliments – he just waits until they’re deserved.
So, when pitcher Zach Beatty, who tossed six shutout innings for the win, was brought up Callaghan had one at the ready.
“That was the first time we’ve seen Zach look like Zach,” he said. “I’ve seen him go since he was 13 – and he was outstanding.”
Beatty has been working his way back from Tommy John surgery in July 2016.
“At the beginning of the season – it was more of a struggle,” Beatty said. “I didn’t have as much velocity and I didn’t have the command that I did before Tommy John. I think now I’m starting to get that command back and that’s made a huge difference for me.”
The Pioneers have won eight of their last 10 games and Beatty has started feeling like his old self along the way.
“It’s definitely mentally frustrating and it’s very physically exhausting as well,” Beatty said. “(I was) just working through the drilling with (pitching coach Mike) Weaver all throughout the season and I noticed that I was starting to get my command back.”
He allowed just three hits and a pair of walks and managed to help himself out by snaring three come-backers, including one that might have saved a run in the sixth inning when the 35th-seeded Comets had first and third and two outs. It was the closest they came to scoring.
“It’s been really exciting watching him play this year,” catcher Connor Evans said. “He just came out this year and has been really consistent for us. He hits spots very consistently, he doesn’t leave balls up too much. He’s just a nice, consistent pitcher we have in (rotation).”
Beatty was also pitch-efficient, tossing just 60 pitches and 48 for strikes.
“I was spotting the fastball and the curveball was breaking well, too,” he said. “They didn’t get on the curveball at all – they got on the fastball a couple of times. Other than that I felt pretty good.”
It was one of two times Central Crossing got a runner into scoring position. Austin Woods and J.J. Carr each singled to open the fourth – breaking up Beatty’s no-hitter.
But, Ben Miller made a diving catch on a low line drive to center to prevent a run before a strikeout and a groundout ended the threat.
Callaghan had compliments for Beatty’s battery-mate, too. Evans led the 23rd-seeded Pioneers (16-11) with two hits, a RBI and a run. His first hit led off the third. He stole second and scored on Jack Betz’s RBI single to give the Pioneers a 1-0 lead.
“The biggest thing with him is that he’s had to catch all but six innings this year,” Callaghan said. “Sam Till, our back-up catcher, has had a sore arm – so he hasn’t been able to play. Just like all wrestlers, (Evans has) been a warrior.”
Evans provided the big blow in a four-run fourth with a two-run single.
“I honestly just felt really comfortable coming into the game,” Evans said. “I prepped really well in the cage. (Carr’s) fastball was staying true and I knew if I got bat on ball, I’d be able to get some hits today.”
Robbie Dayhuff added a two-run single in a four-run sixth to round out the scoring.
Carr took the loss for the Comets (10-13), allowing five runs (two earned) on four hits and four walks with a pair of strikeouts.
Orange meets top-seeded Olentangy Liberty in the district semifinals Tuesday at 5 p.m. at a site to be determined. The Pioneers are 0-3 against the Patriots this season, but that doesn’t deter Callaghan.
“This is a year where I think anything can happen,” he said.
Afterward, Callaghan couldn’t resist … he dragged the field.
Follow Michael Rich on Twitter @mrichnotwealthy or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.