By Ben Stroup
Big Walnut, Liberty, Orange and Olentangy all won their Division I district tournament openers Wednesday, setting up a pair of pretty intriguing semifinal showdowns next week.
The third-seeded Patriots and fifth-seeded Pioneers needed late runs to get the job done, beating 40th-seeded Franklin Heights and 21st-seeded Dublin Coffman by respective scores of 6-5 and 4-3. The seventh-seeded Braves and 15th-seeded Golden Eagles, meanwhile, cruised, beating 31st-seeded Central Crossing and 33rd-seeded Licking Heights 11-2 and 10-0 in six innings, respectively.
The wins not only got all four teams going in postseason play, but set up a pair of county-county contests next week. Liberty will take on Big Walnut Monday at 5 p.m. (site TBA) and Orange will tangle with Olentangy for the third time this season Tuesday at 5 p.m. (site TBA).
Logan Moss doubled home Jason Schutte to break a 3-3 tie in the bottom of the fifth to help the Pioneers slip past the Shamrocks.
Schutte, who picked up the complete-game win on the mound, took care of the rest. He allowed three runs (two earned) on nine hits while striking out four in his seven innings of action. He allowed just one baserunner in the sixth and seventh combined.
Mitchell Okuley and Spencer Yankle pushed the Patriots past the Falcons in Powell.
With the game tied 5-5 heading to the bottom of the seventh, Okuley started the final frame with a walk. He promptly stole second to get into scoring position before scoring the game-winning run when Yankle sent a single to right.
Mitch Milheim finished a perfect 3-for-3 from the dish while Yankle had two hits and three RBI.
Connor Stewart, who pitched two innings of relief, earned the win on the mound.
The Braves had the Comets on the ropes from the start, scoring four times in the first to set the tone. They added two more runs in the second, another in the third and two more in the fourth to take a 9-0 lead they parlayed into the big win.
Collin Mathews had two hits and three RBI while Caden Kaiser, Cameron Kaiser and Nate Monastra also had two hits apiece. Monastra, Collin Hoffmann and Berto Carselle were also solid, each scoring a pair of runs in the win.
Hoffmann earned the complete-game win on the mound, allowing two runs (none earned) on three hits while striking out eight and walking one.
The Golden Eagles dominated as well, scoring a pair of second-inning runs to take a lead they never relinquished against the visiting Hornets.
Henry von Hollen allowed just one hit en route to picking up the complete-game win.
Noah Sprowls sparked the offense with three hits and four RBI. Nick Moser (2-for-3 with an RBI), Jakob Evans (2-for-3 with two runs and an RBI), Nick Green (2-for-4 with two runs), Jacob Young (2-for-3 with an RBI) and Austin Becker (2-for-2 with three runs and an RBI) also chipped in.
Follow Ben Stroup on Twitter @delgazette_ben.