Olentangy baseball coach Ryan Lucas said the same thing Thursday that he said before the season started.
“We get close,” he said. “We try to get the mentality of kicking the door down.”
Olentangy held a 1-0 lead for most of the game, coming within one strike of advancing.
But, Spencer Tommaro lined an 0-2 pitch into left to drive in two runs with two outs in the seventh to lift New Albany to a 2-1 win in a Division I regional semifinal at Dublin Coffman.
The loss adds to a growing list of disappointing season-ending losses in the tournament, including an 11-10 loss to Gahanna Lincoln in the district final and a 7-2 loss in 13 innings to Pickerington North in the regional semifinals two years ago.
Olentangy had the lead in both cases, but couldn’t knock down the door. Still, Lucas believes the alternative is worse.
“But, at least we’re there,” he said. “There are a lot of teams that aren’t there and I’ll take my guys any day of the week because we’re always going to be there.”
Olentangy scratched and clawed for most of the game, with its second-inning run providing a perfect example.
Connor Haag hit a single, Lucas Hassinger reached on an error and Braydon Chitty bunted for a hit – all three coming with one out.
Caden Kaiser beat out a slow-roller to second to drive home Haag, giving Olentangy a 1-0 lead.
The other side of that coin was that Olentangy had runners in scoring position in the first, fourth and fifth innings and had a runner on in every inning but the last. But, it couldn’t add to its lead.
Connor McCulty walked to lead off the fourth, moved to second on a groundout and third on a Hassinger swinging bunt single. But, a missed squeeze bunt left him hung out to dry and Olentangy ended up scoreless in the inning.
“We had opportunities throughout the game to keep adding runs and we just didn’t do it,” Lucas said. “Whether we didn’t get a hit or we missed a squeeze. (Squeezes) are things that we always do … really well. If we squeeze (successfully) – the momentum changes.”
Olentangy pitcher Nick Foy was brilliant, but he ended up taking the loss for Olentangy (21-10). He tallied 11 punchouts in the game and held New Albany to just three hits through the first six innings.
He set down the side in order three times in the game, including the sixth inning.
But, Jake Arenschield doubled to the right-center gap and Alex Arenschield beat out a slow-bouncer to second with one out in the seventh for New Albany (20-9).
Foy recovered to strike out the next batter.
But, Tommaro lined an 0-2 pitch to left to drive in pinch-runners Jack Scharfe and Zach Thomas.
“His arm felt good (and) he was rolling,” Lucas said. “He was in a groove. Even that last guy – he had two strikes on him. The kid made an unbelievable swing at a pitch that was above his hands.
“That was a pitch that we were trying to throw up just to throw one … to get it out of the zone. He swung at a pitch that was out of the zone and he made a great swing. They didn’t do that all game. You’ve gotta give them credit – they got a hit when they needed a hit.”
New Albany’s Jack Sokul went the front six for the Eagles to get the win and Alex Arenschield tossed the seventh for the save.
Next up, New Albany and Olentangy Liberty play for the regional title today at 5 p.m. at Coffman.
Follow Michael Rich on Twitter @mrichnotwealthy or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.