By Michael Rich
Ben Kidwell delivered the knockout punch with a two-run triple as part of a four run fifth inning to send the Buckeye Valley baseball team past host Bexley 7-2 in the first round of the Division II district tournament Wednesday at Clowson Field in Columbus.
Kidwell and Leo Wells each had two hits and drove in three runs for the 15th-seeded Barons, backing up a complete game by Hunter Mitchell on the mound.
“I think we got our momentum rolling now — we’re definitely starting to click as a team,” Kidwell said.
It was a wild inning that saw BV get seven hits, including four straight with two outs. All three outs were made on the base paths and a batter reached on a strikeout because of a wild pitch.
“There were a lot of things that we didn’t do clean,” Buckeye Valley coach Adam Hall said. “I’m not upset about that — I’m just happy for these kids.”
Mitchell started the rally with a game-tying RBI single to score Ben Spaulding from second.
Kidwell sent a deep drive over the left fielder’s head to score Ben Cooper and Mitchell, giving the Barons a 4-2 lead.
“It felt great coming off the bat — I knew I was going to get three,” Kidwell said. “There was no doubt in my mind. It was the first triple I’ve had in like three years, so it was awesome.”
Two pitches later, Wells found the base of the wall to score Kidwell and cap the scoring.
Branson Kurtz lined a single to left where Sean Early made a perfect throw to nail a runner at the plate to end the inning.
Meanwhile, Mitchell danced in and out of danger all game en route to a complete game that took 144 pitches. He was over 50 pitches by the end of the second inning.
“I had trouble locating it in the zone, but in the end, I started throwing more strikes,” Mitchell said. “I couldn’t find the zone early on … I had to settle down.”
Mitchell ended up scattering seven hits and six walks and struck out six for BV battling a back injury.
“Even though I didn’t have my 100-percent best, my defense still had me,” Mitchell said. “Once we took the lead — the back starts feeling a little better — (I) started feeling better about (myself). I had more confidence on the mound once we took the lead.”
“The one mound visit I made, he just kept telling me, ‘I’m fine, get out of here,’” Hall said. “He just buckled up — he wanted the ball and he delivered a heck of a performance. I can’t be happier for him.”
Kidwell drove in the Barons’ first run with a RBI single in the first.
Alex Shapiro tied it in the bottom half with a RBI single for Bexley.
Nick De La Cruz led the ninth-seeded Lions with a pair of hits and a RBI — a fielder’s choice groundout that scored the go-ahead run in the fourth inning.
“We played a quality baseball team in Bexley — they had a great season,” Hall said. “There’s a lot of talent on that club — they’re well-coached, they’re disciplined.
Tommy Bruning allowed five runs (four earned) on 10 hits and struck out two over five innings and took the loss for Bexley (15-11).
Cooper scored three runs to go with two hits. Mitchell and Josh Dodds also had two hits for the Barons.
BV travels to seventh-seeded Sparta Highland Thursday at 5 p.m. in the second round of the district tournament.
Follow Michael Rich on Twitter @mrichdelgazette.