By Michael Rich
Seventh-seeded Olentangy sent 10 batters to the plate in a six-run fifth-inning on its way to an 11-2 victory over top-seeded Hilliard Darby Thursday night in Newark’s Don Edwards Park to capture the school’s fifth baseball district title and first since 2012.
“This team has great chemistry,” senior catcher Nate Monastra said. “This team knows how to win. We knew we had to play hard the whole game.”
Monastra went a perfect 4-for-4 with a triple, a double and just missed hitting a homer on a game-tying sacrifice fly in the third inning to put Olentangy on the board.
“I’m just locked in and I know that my team needs me to get runs in,” Monastra said. “Our leadoffs are getting on and even if it’s a close game, I’m going to need to be the one to get the hit.”
Monastra’s fifth-inning double drove in the first of six runs in the frame to blow the game open.
“He’s at the point in his career right now where he’s elevated to a whole other level,” Olentangy coach Ryan Lucas said. “Offensively, he’s seeing the ball so well — it’s like a big old beach ball coming in there.”
Monastra credited former Olentangy and current University of Cincinnati catcher Woody Wallace, whose 2012 team won the school’s last district title, as inspiration.
“I kind of always looked up to him,” Monastra said. “I just wanted to do what he did — he got (a district title) in his senior year and I wanted to get one in my senior year.”
Collin Hoffmann drove in Monastra with a single to make it 4-1. Hoffmann had three hits in the game and drove in two runs.
Christian McFarland had three hits as well and scored twice and Thomas Beckman added two hits and drove in a pair of runs.
“(We had) a lot of energy,” Beckman said. “The good thing about our team is that we feed off each other. It’s good when we get a couple of hits because it’s easy to thrive off of that.”
Darby (23-7) had opportunities when it loaded the bases in the second, fifth and seventh innings, but only came out with two runs.
Tyler Chumita drove in a run with a single in the second and Luke Morris lined a single to center in the fifth to score the other.
Justin Fugitt, Greg Brown and Morris each had two hits to lead the Panthers.
Berto Carselle settled in after allowing four hits and a run in the second. He retired nine batters in a row from the end of the second until Brown singled with one out in the fifth.
“I thought the turning point in the game was when they had bases loaded and they only got one run out of it,” Lucas said. “Berto was a bulldog on the mound and we made some really good defensive plays.”
Overall, he allowed two runs on 10 hits and a walk and struck out three in six innings to get the win for Olentangy. He also had a hit and two stolen bases offensively.
“(Carselle) is clutch — he doesn’t sweat (big situations),” Monastra said. “He’s a junior, but he plays like a senior — he’s got great confidence out there.”
Olentangy had a three-run lead in the sixth inning in the 2014 district title game before falling 5-3 to district-rival Olentangy Liberty.
“We let that one slip away,” Lucas said. “These seniors were sophomores in that game. For us to finish the deal their senior year is really special.”
Next up, Olentangy plays eighth-seeded Pickerington North in the regional semifinal next Thursday at 2 p.m. at Dublin Coffman.
“We play hard and I know that we are going to go hard into the next game and I believe that we are going to win it,” Christian McFarland said.
Orange nailed down a solid postseason win Thursday, using a determined second-half effort to beat visiting Shaker Heights 18-13 in the second round of the OSLA Division I North/Central region tournament.
Brooke Delara led the Pioneers with five goals while Sarah Ramsey poured in four. Alex Lowry also had a nice night, finishing with a hat trick, while Rhyann Green and Kailee O’Brien had two apiece.
Also: Olentangy 14, Dublin Jerome 13; Hudson 11, Liberty 9.
St. Charles 17, Big Walnut 3.
Follow Michael Rich on Twitter @mrichdelgazette.