It was a tale of two days.
Olentangy Orange’s Cole Callaghan drove in Zach Beatty for the game’s only run when the Division I baseball district semifinal against Olentangy Liberty started Tuesday at Littick Field.
Beatty also tossed four scoreless innings and allowed only one hit when it was suspended before the start of the fifth inning.
When the game resumed Wednesday, Liberty tied it in the sixth before Carson Comer was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded to give the Patriots a 2-1 walk-off win.
“It was two days, but the two days were super similar,” Liberty coach Ty Brenning said. “Runs were at a premium and execution in the short game was the difference … and being able to throw strikes ended up being a difference-maker down the stretch.”
Top-seeded Liberty advanced to the district final round for the first time since 2015.
Mitch Milheim tossed three innings of relief to get the win for the Patriots (25-4). He allowed two hits, a walk and a hit batter. But, he helped his own cause with two pickoffs.
“Baseball, as much as any sport, is one where anything can happen in a single-elimination tournament,” Milheim said. “I think some people that you want to calm down and treat it like a normal game. Some people say that you want to rise to the occasion. I think you should be somewhere in the middle.
“I think if you think of it as a big game – you’ll be a little too nervous. But, if you think of it as a normal game – you might not give it the effort that you need to. I think – as a team – we’ve done a good job of being in the middle. We know that it’s a big game, but we also know that we can’t try to do too much.”
He also had the distinction of being the only one in Liberty’s lineup to reach base multiple times despite not playing the first four innings.
He singled to lead off the sixth in his first at-bat, moved to second on Mitchell Okuley’s sacrifice bunt, moved to third on an error and scored on a Brennan Rowe single to tie it 1-1.
“I don’t think we did anything wrong at the plate mentally (yesterday),” Milheim said. “We were able to make that adjustment (today), get a lot of guys on and bring two of them around today.”
Craig Lutwen led off the seventh with a single and Connor Osmond reached on an error to start the seventh. After a Justin Nelson sacrifice bunt, Milheim was walked intentionally to load the bases before Comer was hit by a pitch to score the winning run.
Both pitchers were solid over the first four innings, but Beatty was a hair better for the 23rd-seeded Pioneers.
He allowed just one hit and three walks over four scoreless innings and struck out six.
“We kind of felt going in with Zach coming off the Tommy John (surgery) – we didn’t really have a No. 1 or No. 2, but we had five No. 3’s” Orange coach Phil Callaghan said. “So, the weather hasn’t really affected us (this season) because we’ve got about four or five kids that we feel are about the same.”
Beatty reached on an error to start the second, stole second, moved to third on Grant Ogden’s single and scored on a Cole Callaghan infield hit to give the Pioneers a 1-0 lead.
Jack Metzger went the front four for the Patriots. He allowed an unearned run on four hits and struck out six and didn’t factor in the decision.
Hunter Andres was saddled with the loss for the Pioneers (16-12). Both of his runs were unearned and he allowed two hits and struck out three.
“We don’t put enough trust in (kids) in this day-and-age of 2018,” Callaghan said. “Adversity is good for you. Adversity is something that these kids need to learn how to accept and defeat because life is always going to try to give you some.
“I’d just say (to him), ‘Hey – you went out there and threw your best. Keep your head high and you’ll have another chance someday.’”
Robbie Dayhuff had two hits to lead Orange’s offensive effort.
“We played clean yesterday for four innings,” Phil Callaghan said. “Today – we had to do the same thing. Let’s face it – this is the eighth one of those for this group.
“In terms of social and personal choice – this is the best group I’ve ever had. So, you gotta figure that these eight losses are adversity that’s going to pay big dividends and rewards in the future for these kids.”
Liberty advances to the district final round where it faces third-seeded Grove City or 16th-seeded Marysville today at 5 p.m. at a site to be determined.
Follow Michael Rich on Twitter @mrichnotwealthy or contact him at [email protected]