Cameron Kaiser celebrated Senior Night with a complete game on the mound and what turned out to be the game-winning two-run single as a part of a four-run sixth inning.
His big performance allowed the Olentangy baseball team to put a bow on its OCC-Buckeye championship by making it an outright title thanks to a 4-2 win over rival Olentangy Orange Wednesday night in Lewis Center.
This is the first title in the OCC-Buckeye for Olentangy after winning outright titles the last two years in the OCC-Capital.
“This one really stands out for me because it’s my senior year and we’re in a new league that’s a lot tougher this year,” Cameron Kaiser said.
The rematch couldn’t live up to a pitching matchup that produced one run on four hits between Cameron Kaiser and Tyler Brown from Apr. 17.
Cameron Kaiser gave up a hit to leadoff hitter Jason Schutte, who led the Pioneers with three hits, before settling in to retire the next eight batters.
“He was a stud … and he was a stud the first time he faced them,” Olentangy coach Ryan Lucas said. “When he has his curveball … he throws hard to where he can keep guys guessing. He did a great job.”
“We had beaten them once before, so I was confident,” Cameron Kaiser said. “I played with basically half their team in summer ball, so I know what they got. I kinda just hit my spots and let the coach call them.”
Brown mowed down the first nine batters he faced before an error ended his perfect game bid to start the fourth.
“Tyler Brown can pitch,” Lucas said. “Tyler Brown is really good.”
Brown seemed destined for another brilliant start.
“He was just his usual self,” Pioneers coach Phil Callaghan said. “But the key is that we didn’t score early. We gotta score … put him in a position where we’re ahead and put even more pressure on them.”
“We knew that in this game, they were desperate … they had to win to have any chance (at tying for a league title),” Lucas said. “So, we knew right away that we had to take their first, second, third punch, fourth punch, fifth punch … and just hang in there.”
But the fifth inning got away from Orange (14-8, 9-5). Berto Carselle worked a four-pitch walk before Jake McIntyre lined a single to right for Olentangy’s first hit.
Some coaches call them free bases, some call them extra outs. Callaghan calls them 90’s.
“In the fifth we gave up six 90’s, which, up until that point, we were winning that battle 2-1,” he said. “Games like this – you can’t give up free 90-feets. Whether it be the bunt where we don’t get an out or the pitcher where we don’t get an out – that’s where the game was decided.”
Sam Nourse reached on an error on a sacrifice bunt attempt to load the bases.
Luke Hassinger bunted for a hit to drive in the first run. The ball was fielded by the first baseman, but no throw was made, keeping the bases loaded.
“If we could make some plays with guys in scoring position and rattle him a little bit,” Lucas said. “Our M.O. is that when we put guys on base, we’re very good squeezing or putting the ball on the ground … playing the game. We just wanted to put him in the position of dealing with some adversity, and that was a key to our success.”
Caden Kaiser drove in the second run on a base hit to left to make it 2-0.
After a strikeout, Cameron Kaiser found the five-hole on a grounder that scored Nourse and pinch-runner Riley Haag for what turned out to be the game-winning runs.
“I got lucky – he hung a curveball,” Cameron Kaiser said. “He actually caught me out in front, but I just kind of flicked the barrel out.”
Orange never recovered. Garrett O’Reilly broke up the shutout with a double off the base of the left field wall in the seventh and scored on a Connor Evans groundout for the final margin.
The song remains the same for Olentangy (18-3, 12-2), which has now won 10 straight over Orange, including all three meetings this year.
Every one of those games has been close. Only 14 runs separate the two over that stretch with the widest margin in a single game of three. There have been five one-run games, including the two earlier this year.
“Right now, I’d say they’re probably playing the game a little bit harder,” Callaghan said.
Olentangy closes the regular season at rival Olentangy Liberty and Orange hosts Westerville North in its finale. Both are scheduled for Friday at 5 p.m.
Follow Michael Rich on Twitter @mrichdelgazette.