By Michael Rich
Jordan Seich’s bat and Jonathan Popham’s arm keyed the Olentangy Liberty baseball team to its ninth win in the last 10 games — a 5-4 non-league victory at Worthington Kilbourne Tuesday in Columbus.
The fun-loving Seich, who can be seen doing Ozzie Smith-style flips in right field in practice, lifted Liberty to the win with the go-ahead sacrifice fly in the seventh inning.
“My heart stops every time he does (a flip),” Liberty coach Ty Brenning said. “He can’t sit still … he’s got one gear and it’s fifth. He’s really an energizer bunny for us in a lot of ways.”
That’s what makes his approach so important.
“I go up to the plate and I clear my mind,” Seich said. “I just think about what I can do to help my team win. I knew that all I needed to do was get the bat on the ball and advance him.”
“The mental preparation is as a much of what we focus on as the physical,” Brenning said. “It really starts with self-awareness. He understands that he is the Tasmanian Devil, and that can work against (him). Just simply having the awareness to slow himself down and execute within the proper framework of where he is (is key).”
Seich drove in two runs in the game, which also included a RBI single in the second inning. He also pitched a scoreless seventh to pick up the save.
“We’re really kind of greedy putting him in the nine-hole because he gives us a second leadoff guy,” Brenning said. “For a lot of teams in Central Ohio, he’d be hitting in the top five.”
Ryan Hoffman set up the go-ahead sac fly with a leadoff double and Connor Stewart bunted him to third.
But it was Popham’s performance in the first inning that might have been the biggest key in the win.
Popham entered with the bases loaded and no outs. He struck out the first batter he faced, which turned into a double play. The pitch was wild and catcher Spencer Yankle had to run it down to the right of home plate. He recovered in time to tag out the runner coming home from third.
“I got no problem throwing him out there with bases loaded and nobody out,” Brenning said. “It was so much fun to watch him cash in on all of that investment of hard work.”
A grounder to third ended the inning and preserved a 2-0 lead for the Patriots (12-3).
“(Popham) has been a model of hard work,” Brenning said. “In today’s world, he’s an outlier because he’s a patient kid, who’s team-centered and has never shied away from hard work.”
“He’s one of our senior leaders,” Seich said. “He comes in with great power and the perfect mindset for those situations. He’s dedicated to getting that batter — he doesn’t focus on the negatives. That was huge for us … it gave us a lot of momentum.”
Liberty relievers were a perfect 5-for-5 in stranding inherited runners on base. Mitch Milheim entered with runners on first and second to get the final out during a three-run fourth.
“Mitch has got ice water in his veins,” Brenning said. “For a sophomore he’s got the makings of — down the road in a year or two — being a number one in our program.”
Milheim got the win. He tossed 2.1 innings and allowed an unearned run on a hit and a walk with four strikeouts.
Chase Gresock had two hits to lead the Patriots and Stewart and Mitchell Okuley each drove in a run.
Dominic Frengel led the Wolves (9-3) both at the plate and on the mound. He had three hits, scored a run and went the distance on the hill.
Frengel allowed five runs (four earned) on seven hits and two walks with four strikeouts and took the loss.
Liberty returns to OCC-Central action at Westland today at 5 p.m.
Follow Michael Rich on Twitter @mrichdelgazette.