DUBLIN – The Olentangy Orange baseball team found itself in the driver’s seat of the OCC-Buckeye division title race after a pair of wins over rival Olentangy Liberty to start league play.
Liberty never lost again in league play. For Orange, it was a pair of losses in three games against Westerville Central that was the difference between league glory and second place.
The Pioneers got some measure of revenge in Tuesday’s 8-0 win over the Warhawks in a Division I district semifinal at Dublin Jerome High School.
Orange coach Tom Marker wouldn’t admit to revenge serving as extra motivation. The Pioneers are back in the district title game for the first time since they went to the state final four in 2017.
The trophy that comes with a win in the next game is more important, according to Marker.
“We don’t talk about the league title or anything like that,” he said. “Our overall goal was to make a run in the tournament. It’s a great group of kids. Coach (Phil) Callaghan didn’t leave the cupboard bare. He taught these kids how to play hard. So, it makes my job a lot easier.”
But for senior Zane Lattig, who tossed a three-hit shutout and added a hit, an RBI and a run at the plate, and junior Braden Riley, who had three hits, an RBI and scored twice – it was motivation.
“It served a lot for me because I knew we all wanted to win (a league title) and we were bummed when we couldn’t,” Lattig said. “So, we wanted to come out here and prove that we could (beat them).”
“It’s been a tough three games against them,” Riley said. “I honestly don’t think we played well in any of those and today it really showed.”
Lattig struck out six and walked one for the third-seeded Pioneers, and it was that second number that was more of a key.
“We didn’t throw Zane in any of those three games,” Marker said. “He gave up one free pass. We gave up (29) free passes in the other three games and gave up one tonight and I think that was the difference.”
Lattig retired 10 in a row after Camron Hubble walked and Ryan Rabold singled with one out in the third. But a 6-4-3 double play ended the inning. It was the only time the Warhawks got a runner into scoring position.
“I’ve felt great,” said Lattig, who tossed a complete-game in Orange’s second-round win over Delaware Hayes May 15. “The recovery time has been amazing and I’ve trusted the guys behind me. They’ve helped me through this. They do everything for me.”
Orange (22-7) scored five times in the second inning to take the lead and added on from there. Two runs scored on a Ryan Lewis single to get things started.
Lewis beat the throw home on a fielder’s choice grounder back to the pitcher off the bat of Robbie Dayhuff to extend the lead to 3-0.
Riley added an RBI double and Tyler Ross an RBI single – both with two outs – to extend the lead to 5-0.
“I noticed that they were shifting to the left a lot,” Riley said. “So, I was just focused in my mind trying to take it backside – just like in (batting practice) because that’s our approach in BP.”
Matthew Wolfe singled to start the third and ended up scoring on a wild pitch to make it 6-0.
Wolfe added a sacrifice fly in the fifth after Lattig was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded to drive in a run to account for Orange’s final two runs.
Josh Laffey started and allowed five runs, all earned, on six hits over 1.2 innings before giving way to Joey Ohl, who allowed three runs, two earned on four hits and two walks in 2.1 innings of relief for the 13th-seeded Warhawks.
Niko George tossed two scoreless innings of relief and allowed a hit and two walks and struck out three for Central (15-13).
Orange will face sixth-seeded Hilliard Darby for a district title Thursday at 5 p.m. at Ohio Dominican University’s Frank Damian Field.
Dublin Jerome 21, Olentangy 12 (Division I regional tournament)
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