By Michael Rich
Olentangy committed two critical errors in the 13th inning and Pickerington North made them count, scoring five times in the inning to win 7-2 in an OHSAA Region 2 semifinal Thursday in Dublin.
“We ran out of gas … just lost focus a little bit,” Olentangy coach Ryan Lucas said. “16-year-olds will do that after four hours.”
Cole Losoncy led off the 13th with an infield hit. Cameron Kaiser misplayed a Drew Salinas sacrifice bunt attempt and Connor Ayers reached when Olentangy pitcher Berto Carselle tried to get an out at third on a second sacrifice attempt and threw it into left field, scoring Losoncy to break a 2-2 tie.
“It’s hard to do when there’s adversity and it’s a big-time situation,” Lucas said. “They score a couple of runs and you’re down and mentally you’re all over the place … we just lost our focus on a couple of balls that we normally make.”
Dillian Smith opened the flood gates for Pickerington North (20-9) with a RBI double and Alec Bradbury and Justin Grubb each had run-scoring singles sandwiched around a sacrifice fly by Nick Whitenall.
“We get a couple of outs there and it’s a different (situation),” Lucas said. “That last inning is not how we normally play … that’s not who we are.”
Olentangy (22-9) loaded the bases with one out in the 10th inning on a base hit by Caden Kaiser, an intentional walk by Nate Monastra and a walk by Cameron Kaiser.
“What a great game for 13 innings — we had our chance,” Lucas said.
Collin Hoffmann bunted a ball down the third base line that barely went foul and then struck out swinging on ball four against the new reliever Grubb. Grubb got Berto Carselle to fly to left to end the threat.
“(Hoffmann’s) a guy that normally gets those down,” Lucas said about the squeeze attempt. “The baseball gods just pushed it, what, an inch to the left and an inch to the right, we’re at home celebrating … that’s how easily it could have turned for us.”
It was the only time Hoffmann didn’t come through in a clutch situation all day. He led Olentangy with three hits and allowed two runs over the first seven innings on the hill.
Nine of his 10 strikeouts came with runners in scoring position. He allowed two unearned runs on 11 hits and three walks overall.
“He’s a bulldog … I’ll take 50 of him,” Lucas said.
Carselle pitched well in relief for Olentangy. He set down the first seven batters he faced over his first four innings. But he was charged with five unearned runs and took the loss.
“It’s the game of baseball,” Lucas said. “They get a couple of hits and all of a sudden they’re hitting it hard. Everything that (could go) bad, went bad in that inning. That’s the way it goes.”
Grubb ended up the winning pitcher. He allowed two hits in 3.2 scoreless innings and retired the first nine batters he faced.
Koebe Rush allowed two runs over the first nine innings for the Panthers on eight hits and three walks with four strikeouts.
Dillian Smith had four hits to lead the Panthers and Losoncy and Mitchell Smith had three apiece.
North tied it on a throwing error in the fifth inning when Grubb hit an infield single, but Cameron Kaiser tried to get the out at second and threw it into right field.
Olentangy had wins over Central Crossing, Olentangy Orange and Hilliard Darby to pick up its first district title since 2012. Monastra, Hoffmann, Thomas Beckman and Christian McFarland graduate off this season’s team.
“It’s like I told our kids – yeah, this is very frustrating and disappointing – however, those four seniors elevated our program to another level,” Lucas said. “The expectation is to be here every year.”
North will face Gahanna Lincoln for the regional title game today at 5 p.m.
Follow Michael Rich on Twitter @mrichdelgazette.