It sounds crazy, but Matthew Poole scored the only run in Olentangy Orange’s 1-0 win over Thomas Worthington in the Division I district baseball title game from second base on an infield hit.
Poole tossed a complete-game shutout on the mound for the Pioneers and did it with the kind of efficiency that a Major-League pitcher strives to achieve.
He did it on 81 pitches. He had no strikeouts through the front five innings before striking out four over the final two frames. He allowed just four hits and did not walk a batter.
“I couldn’t hear anything … I’ve never been so focused in my life,” Poole said.
“Poole was magnificent,” first baseman Jason Schutte said. “He had 57 pitches going into the sixth inning – he was a demon out there.”
And he scored the winning run.
Poole didn’t know the ball never made it to the outfield on a Zach Stiteler grounder deep in the hole on the right side with two outs in the sixth inning.
“I just kept running,” Poole said.
Thomas second baseman Vincent Armstrong made a sliding stop in short right field, which normally saves a run from scoring.
But, Poole didn’t see Armstrong make the play and he kept running. Armstrong got up and fired home, but the ball was up the third base line just enough to allow Poole to slide around catcher Andy Caddas’ tag.
And that was it. The game’s only run scored from second base on an infield hit.
It was fitting, too. Orange made several outs on the base paths.
Caddas threw out a pair of runners on stolen base attempts.
Two other baserunners found themselves the victims of bad luck. Schutte led off the game with a hit, but was struck by a liner off the bat of Poole to snub an early rally.
Stiteler was caught between first and second on a tweener in the fourth. Logan Moss lined a ball that Nick Kendig just missed on a dive, but he recovered to get the out at second.
“We had the leadoff guy on in three of the first five innings,” Pioneers coach Phil Callaghan said. “I thought there were opportunities.”
Meanwhile, Poole mowed them down to the tune of 12 straight from the second to the sixth innings.
“(We) were just keeping the batters on their toes and just trusting the defense because we know they’ll make plays if we let them,” Stiteler said.
Joey Pishcel finally broke it up with a hit with two outs in the sixth. He went to third on an Armstrong base hit.
Then, a high pop found itself nestled between the backstop fence and the dugout wall that Schutte, the first baseman, negotiated to make the grab for the third out ending the Cardinals’ best scoring chance of the game.
There was a similar play earlier in the inning where Stiteler, Schutte and Poole converged and the ball fell. Schutte said he was just trying to not let that happen again.
“I was just trying not to run into (Stiteler) again,” he said. “I tried to find the fence (first) and catch (the ball).”
It’s the second district title for the 11th-seeded Pioneers (20-8) baseball program after winning in 2012. Callaghan attributes this championship to solid play.
“We gave up no 90s – meaning, not one time did we give 90 feet for nothing and that’s how you win a district championship,” he said. “That’s the key to baseball. Playing good baseball is about not giving up anything for free.”
Spencer Kiehl was the hard-luck loser for the fourth-seeded Cardinals (19-5). He allowed five hits and three walks and struck out six over six solid innings of work. Trent Castle tossed a 1-2-3 seventh with two strikeouts in relief.
Orange meets Hilliard Darby in the regional semifinal next Thursday at 2 p.m. at Dublin Coffman.
Follow Michael Rich on Twitter @mrichdelgazette.