Joe Tootle tip-toed around trouble in the fifth inning and the offense rewarded him with a couple key runs in the bottom of the frame as the fifth-seeded Olentangy Liberty baseball team pulled away from visiting and 10th-seeded Westerville Central for a 4-2 Division I district semifinal win Monday night in Powell.
With the teams tied 2-2 after four, the fifth proved to be the deciding inning … but Tootle and company had to work hard to get that far with the game still tied.
After the Warhawks evened things up, scoring a run on a passed ball and another on an RBI single off the bat of Evan Schumacher, Tootle entered the game with two on and nobody out.
That changed in a hurry, though, as he promptly struck out the first batter he faced. Catcher Brian Yamokoski then caught a would-be base stealer with a strike to third before Tootle coaxed an inning-ending groundout.
After a 1-2-3 bottom of the fourth, Central came back to the plate looking to keep the momentum going. It looked like it would, too, at least initially. Andrew Beck singled off Tootle to start the fifth and Owen Franks worked a walk to put two on with nobody out for the second straight inning.
For the second straight inning, though, Tootle escaped unscathed. With runners at first and second, he struck out Kyle Denney, got a fly out from Cullen Hassel and struck out Corbin Caplan to end the inning.
That’s when Liberty sealed the deal at the plate. Nolan Fogg doubled to start the fifth and Josh Stickel bunted to try and move him up. The pitcher fielded the bunt cleanly, but instead of going to first, threw to third to try and get the lead runner. The throw was wide, though, allowing Fogg to scamper home and Stickel to move up to second.
The next batter, Adam Lane, tripled to chase home Stickel and smooth out the scoring summary.
Tootle was the difference on the mound, tossing four scoreless innings of relief while only allowing two hits. He struck out six and walked a pair.
Michael Tuttle led Liberty at the dish, finishing 2-for-3 while Fogg was 1-for-2 with an RBI and a run scored.
Brad Leonard had two hits to lead the Warhawks.
Next up, the Patriots will take on second-seeded New Albany in Wednesday’s district final. First pitch is slated for 5 p.m. at New Albany.
Hilliard Darby 2, Olentangy 0
The seventh-seeded Panthers plated a pair of runs in the bottom of the first and the duo of Andrew Patrick and Cam Gilkerson made sure they held up, combining to shut out the 15th-seeded Braves in Monday’s Division I district semifinal in Hilliard.
Olentangy outhit Darby, 8-5, but couldn’t come up with the key hit when it needed it. Patrick tossed the first six innings, allowing eight hits while striking out eight, before Gilkerson nailed down the win with a 1-2-3 seventh.
Austin Sizemore was solid for Olentangy, but was pegged with the loss despite allowing just the two runs, one earned, on five hits. He struck out six and walked one in six innings of work.
Grant Schaffner was a perfect 3-for-3 to lead the Braves while Brandon Hire had two hits in the setback.