By Michael Rich
Christian McFarland drove in two runs to back a solid pitching performance by Caden Kaiser and Olentangy held on to beat Delaware Hayes 3-2 to clinch its second straight OCC-Capital baseball title outright Tuesday in Delaware.
“We work hard — we do a lot in the offseason,” Olentangy coach Ryan Lucas said. “Our kids are tremendous and put a lot into it. It’s fun to be able to reap the benefits and be outright champs.”
The freshman Kaiser and Hayes starter Tyler Brown went toe-to-toe for six innings each.
Kaiser blinked first, giving up a single to Mason W. Davis followed by a double to Brown with one out in the fourth. Noah Watts singled in Davis to give Hayes (6-14, 4-9) a 1-0 lead.
Olentangy came back in the top half of the fifth. Josh Moeller reached on an error, moved to second a sacrifice bunt before McFarland drove him home to tie it.
“I knew at that point that we were going to win the game,” McFarland said. “I knew it because as soon as we get one hit, our team rallies off that. I knew after that we were good.”
“Late in the game, we started getting the leadoff guy on base with no outs so we could bunt them over … play some small ball,” Lucas said. “(McFarland’s hit) gets us on the board and going a little bit.”
The teams remained tied until Olentangy (18-7, 12-1) put two runners on to start the seventh on a hit by Moeller and an error. Kaiser sent a blooper that dropped in short left field to score pinch runner Cole Robinson from third.
“He always comes through in big situations,” Olentangy senior catcher Nate Monastra said. “Every time we have a close game at the end, he always comes through with a (big hit).”
McFarland drove home what ended up being the game-winning run on a sacrifice fly to deep center off reliever Josh Allen. Allen stranded two runners on base with a pair of fly outs.
Brown allowed three runs (one earned) on four hits and four walks over six-plus innings and took the loss for the Pacers.
“Ty went out and battled for us — I can’t blame his effort,” Hayes coach Ryan Montgomery said. “He got into some trouble, but he worked out of it.”
Kaiser countered with six innings of four-hit, one-run ball. He struck out two and walked five to get the win for Olentangy.
“Caden Kaiser did a great job pitching,” Lucas said. “He did a great job — he kept us in the game.”
Watts and Connor King worked back-to-back one-out walks and Ryan Daughenbaugh singled in Watts to cut the lead to one.
Collin Mathews came back with a strikeout and a groundout to earn the save.
Olentangy has won 16 out of its last 18 games since losing to Hilliard Darby and Medina in a doubleheader at Olentangy Liberty April 2.
“We just keep getting better every day,” Lucas said. “I think that’s because they love the game of baseball — they love playing and don’t want to stop playing.”
The loss snapped a three-game winning streak for the Pacers.
“I thought compared to where we’ve been, I’m a lot happier — especially going into the tournament,” Montgomery said.
Hayes makes the return trip to Olentangy, where both teams wrap up the league schedule today at 5 p.m.
Follow Michael Rich on Twitter @mrichdelgazette.