The Olentangy Liberty baseball team couldn’t have gotten off to a better start, greeting New Albany’s Ian Hoff with four straight hits to take a 2-0 lead before the fans had even settled into their seats.
The host and second-seeded Eagles (25-5) were the ones who settled in after that, though, blanking the fifth-seeded Patriots (23-7) the rest of the way to notch a 5-2 win in Wednesday’s Division I district championship in New Albany.
Liberty got off the bus ready to roll. Michael Tuttle started the game with a sharp single to left before Mason Onate singled up the middle and Dom Magistrale beat out a well-placed bunt to load the bases with nobody out.
Brian Yamokoski continued the trend, singling to right to score Tuttle and Onate with the game’s first runs.
Hoff and company wiggled off the hook from there — Yamokoski was caught stealing, Connor Bourn struck out and Nolan Fogg flew out to center — but Patriot starter Anderson Gomez worked around a pair of baserunners in the bottom half of the first to keep his team in front.
Once the momentum left the Patriot dugout, though, it never returned.
After working around a pair of baserunners to keep things at 2-0, New Albany went to work in the bottom of the second, taking the lead for good with three runs.
Just as Liberty was able to do in the first, the Eagles loaded the bases with nobody out before Oliver Shroyer singled to center to score Hoff and AC Clouse with the game-tying runs. One out later, Shroyer scored on an errant pickoff attempt.
After a 1-2-3 top of the third, New Albany ballooned its edge to 4-2 when Brock Tibbitts, who singled to start the inning, scored on a single to right off the bat of Hoff.
The teams traded zeros in the fourth before the Eagles added a little insurance in the fifth courtesy of a sacrifice fly by Oliver Cush, smoothing out the scoring summary.
The Patriots got themselves in position to get a little closer, but were unable to do so. Adam Lane roped a two-out double to left in the sixth and Onate singled with two down in the seventh, but both were left stranded.
Onate finished with three hits to lead Liberty at the dish. Tuttle and Lane both collected two hits apiece while Yamokoski had a team-best two RBI for the Patriots, who outhit the Eagles, 10-6, despite the setback.
Gomez was pegged with the loss, but the sophomore put together a steady showing in his first outing on the district- championship stage. He allowed five runs on seven hits while striking out two and walking one in six innings of work.
Hoff got the win for the Eagles, allowing two runs on nine hits while striking out four in 5.2 innings of action. Andrew Trybus closed things out, tossing 1.1 innings of one-hit ball to seal the deal.