Jake McIntyre capped a two-out rally in the seventh with a walk-off single to send the Olentangy baseball team to a 6-5 victory over Westerville Central to clinch a share of the OCC-Buckeye title Tuesday in Lewis Center.
McIntyre grounded one through the left side to bring home pinch-runner Riley Haag for the winning run after Josh Moeller was hit by a pitch to start the rally and Berto Carselle bunted for a base hit to keep the inning alive.
“I think it was telling for our team to win an OCC title – Berto, a senior, bunts down the line to get on and make it first and second,” Olentangy coach Ryan Lucas said. “(McIntyre) didn’t swing it well tonight, and for him to step up and get a base hit there, that was awesome.”
Logan Ketron had three hits, including a homer, and drove in five runs to lead Olentangy (17-3, 11-2) to its third straight league title and first in the new Buckeye Division.
“He put a good swing on it – the wind’s blowing out,” Lucas said. “Yeah, that was huge. We’ve been there all year where we’ve been down. So, our guys don’t quit … they fight.”
The ball was carrying out on an overcast day, turning routine fly balls to deep drives.
Jalen Arms cleared the bases with a one-out double in the first to give the Warhawks and early 3-0 lead. He drove in all five runs for Central and had three hits.
But, Olentangy came right back with a Braydon Chitty double to deep center and a single by Cameron Kaiser in the bottom half.
That set up Ketron’s first big hit – a game-tying three-run homer that carried over the left-center field wall.
Ketron would follow with RBI singles in the third and fifth.
The one in the third allowed Olentangy to keep pace with Arms, who had given Central the lead again with a RBI double in the top half of the inning.
The one in the fifth put Olentangy on top for the first time.
“His swing has improved tremendously,” Lucas said. “He was all about trying to hit the ball out of the ballpark and his swing arc was up. Now, he’s really bought into (being) a line-drive guy. He’s become more of a balanced hitter.”
Ketron’s game was the culmination of a lot of work done on the field and off.
“It was us in the winter and even at the beginning of this season battling maturity,” Lucas said. “Nothing bad … nothing detrimental to our team. He’s a sophomore … just immaturity.”
“I was playing selfish,” Ketron said. “I really wanted to be a part of this, so something had to stop … something had to change and I’m glad I did.”
He had to grow up fast because the team needed his bat.
“I’ve really grown up off the field, which has carried over to on the field,” Ketron said.
“He’s really bought into being a team guy,” Lucas said. “He’s grown up tremendously over the last two months.”
Caden Kaiser pitched 1.2 innings of relief and picked up the win in relief of Carselle, who went the first 5.1 innings. Cameron Kaiser had three hits and scored a pair of runs to help lead the offense.
And now, all Olentangy has to do is win one of its next two games to take the title outright.
Rival Orange looms two games back with two games to play and the two teams meet at Olentangy today at 5 p.m.
If Orange wins, Olentangy has to beat rival Liberty or hope for Westerville North to knock off the Pioneers Friday.
Camron Hubble had three hits and Matt Keifer added two hits and a run for the Warhawks. Keifer took the loss, allowing a run on two hits, a walk and a hit batter in 1.2 innings of work in relief.
Evan Ingram went the front five innings for Central (12-12, 6-7).
Follow Michael Rich on Twitter @mrichdelgazette.