SE, NR in arms race
NORTH ROBINSON – Logic said that as soon as Seneca East scored runs or – frankly – any run Thursday, Crestline was in trouble.
Such is the case when you have to go up against a starting pitcher for the Tigers.
As it happened, SE put up four first-inning runs in its Division IV district semifinal.
That was more than enough for starting pitcher Ethan Caudill, who came into the game with a 0.16 earned run average and an 8-0 record.
Caudill did what Caudill does. He threw seven shutout innings, and the Tigers advanced to today’s district final at 5 p.m. here against New Riegel.
Like Seneca East, the Blue Jackets were pushed to the finals thanks to strong starting pitching. Michael Kirian, whose ERA was a sparkling 1.14, allowed a pair of runs, but after minimizing the damage in the fourth inning, he completely shut down Mohawk, and the NR offense erupted, using a six-run fifth to break open what became a 12-2 six-inning win.
The Blue Jackets’ reward for Thursday’s victory is a return engagement with the pitcher who no-hit them May 5.
Mason McWilliams, the undefeated Ohio commit, is expected to start on the mound today. New Riegel coach Gregg Hughes said he hadn’t decided who would start for his team today.
But he said it with a chuckle, so it’s possible he just didn’t want to tip his hand. Regardless, Hughes did comment on the prospect of facing SE’s southpaw ace again.
“As we talked in the (postgame) huddle out here, (McWilliams) is a great pitcher,” Hughes said. “But we’re gonna have to come with the right attitude, and I told them if they put the bat on the ball – it’s going to be hard to do, but if we can do it – you never know what could happen.”
On Wednesday, what happened in Seneca East’s game was fairly predictable. Caudill upped his record to 9-0, allowing three hits and striking out eight.
Still, Seneca East coach Frank Lamoreaux said it wasn’t easy for Caudill.
“He faced these guys early in the year and beat them pretty soundly, but second time through is always a little tougher,” Lamoreaux said. “It just shows how much they’ve improved, because even Ethan made the comment, ‘These guys are putting the bat on the ball.’
“We just keep pounding the strike zone and let the defense behind you make the plays.”
The Bulldogs (9-14) had a couple of chances against him. In the first inning, after recording back-to-back strikeouts, Caudill allowed singles to Austin Norwood and Nate Coffman, putting runners on first and second. But Caudill picked off Norwood at second to end the threat.
Crestline also had something going in the second. With one out, Cody Cook walked and J.R. Wolfe reached on an error. But Caudill escaped the jam by fanning Reece Thomas and Jeremiah Dowell.
“A couple of innings we had runners in scoring position, but we couldn’t get that big clutch hit,” Crestline coach Steve Garberich said.
Seneca East got clutch hits early. Nate Snavely hit a two-run single in the first inning, beginning a day in which he would slap two hits and drive in four runs. The Tigers scored four runs in the first, then added a pair of runs in the second to go up 6-0.
“Anytime you can get two or three runs early in the game, it’s a great bonus,” Lamoreaux said, “especially the way our pitching staff has been.”
Caudill, with the help of some outstanding defense from shortstop Alex Scheiber, did the rest.
“They made play after play after play on us,” Garberich said. “(Scheiber), he made two major league plays on us, bare-handing the ball.”
Seneca East improved to 23-2.
Sam Blaising (6-2) took the loss for the Bulldogs.
In the second game, New Riegel got an RBI single from John Zoeller as part of a three-run second inning. The Warriors came back with a run in the third, then had their best chance for a big inning in the fourth.
Kirian walked the first two hitters, then Eric Maskey reached on a bunt single to load the bases.
Jacob Jeffrey followed with a grounder to short that drove in a run and moved the other runners to second and third.
But Kirian recovered by striking out Logan Hartsel and David Dietrich to end the inning.
“I’d say definitely,” Hughes said, when asked if it was the key point of the game. “Michael, he didn’t have his great stuff today. He struggled at times, but when he got behind, he worked out of it.”
Mohawk coach Eric Hoover said he still believed his team was in good shape after the inning.
“I still felt like, even after that, we had the momentum,” Hoover said after his team ended its season at 12-13. “Anytime we can get a run against (Kirian), that was good. It would have been great to get a couple more.
“I think we could have rattled them a little bit if we got the lead,” he said.
Instead, New Riegel erupted. Kirian had an RBI double, Aaron Acree and Blaine Hughes had RBI singles, and the Blue Jackets scored six runs. They added three runs in the sixth and run ruled the Warriors in the sixth.
Hughes said New Riegel made good contact all game.
“Recently, we have been hitting better, and I thought (scoring runs) was going to happen eventually,” he said. “We were putting the ball in play, and I told them ‘Keep hitting the ball; sooner or later something is gonna happen.'”
Acree went 4 for 4 for the Blue Jackets, scoring twice and driving in a run.
Kirian ended up going all six innings, allowing three hits and striking out 10. He improved to 7-2.
Austin Shock (5-4) took the loss for the Warriors. He went 5 2/3 innings, allowing 12 runs, but only six were earned.