Tigers drop heartbreaker in regional semis
LORAIN – When it was all over, the two stars of Thursday evening’s regional final met just to the right of the first base bag and shook hands.
The two Division I college bound hurlers momentarily resembled a pair of prize fighters touching gloves after 12 rounds.
Seneca East starting pitcher Mason McWilliams and his counterpart, Cuyahoga Heights’ Zac Lowther, had dominated hitters all night.
Lowther, who has committed to Xavier, carried a no-hitter into extra innings, and only allowed one hit over nine, striking out 17.
McWilliams, set to play for Ohio University next spring, was every bit as brilliant: Nine innings, two hits, 16 strikeouts.
And an unearned run.
Baseball doesn’t allow stalemates. In this case, it was McWilliams and his teammates who took the hard-luck 1-0 loss.
The Redskins took advantage of a pair of Tiger miscues in the top of the ninth to push across the game’s only run, and advance to today’s Division IV regional final against Berlin Center Western Reserve.
In the end, it was a two-out throwing error by the SE shortstop that allowed the run to score. But the Redskins’ Craig McDaniel only was on base because his chopper between first and second was pursued by the bases’ respective defenders, leaving no one to take the throw at first.
“We made two or three critical mistakes,” Seneca East coach Frank Lamoreaux said.
Lowther did not. He set down the Tigers 1-2-3 in the ninth to close a remarkable game.
Redskins coach Marc Lowther called the win “fabulous.”
“Anytime you can beat a team of that caliber … Coach Lamoreax does a great job with that program and that school,” he said. “It’s two very good baseball programs where, you know, somewhere down the line you’re probably going to meet them.”
The Tigers were making their third-straight regional appearance, and fell in the semis for the second-straight year. Zac Lowther said he had success against them by attacking the zone and mixing things up.
“I tried to pound the strike zone as much as I could,” he said. “I knew I’d have to mix in my breaking balls some more, more than I have been in the past, but I’ve been trying to work on that more, and develop it.”
The Tigers managed little off Lowther, with one notable exception.
In the bottom of the eighth, the lefty, who had yet to allow a hit, yielded a one-out walk to Drew Tipple, but Tipple was caught stealing moments later. Braeden Tipple followed with a base hit down the right field line. Lowther struck out Carson Pipher, but the catcher couldn’t handle the pitch, and his throw to first was wild, allowing Braeden Tipple to advance to third.
Alex Scheiber then walked to load the bases for Ethan Caudill. Lowther’s first two pitches to him were balls.
Then – for the only time all night – Marc Lowther visited the mound.
“He just said, ‘Stay within yourself,'” Lowther the pitcher said, recounting the conversation. “‘Don’t try and overthrow. You’re gonna have runners on … just throw. You know how to throw; you’ve been doing this for 18 years.'”
Meanwhile, Lamoreaux was just as confident in Caudill.
“I wouldn’t want anybody up there in that situation,” Lamoreaux said. “Bases loaded, 2-and-0 count, I’d take that any day.”
But as he had all day, Lowther came through, coming back to strike out Caudill to end the threat.
McWilliams suffered his only loss of the season. He finishes with a 10-1 mark, the Tigers wind up 24-6.
“I think I’ll definitely remember this one,” McWilliams said. “It’s kind of left a scar on me, going 0-3 in regionals. Every loss is tough, but this one in particular, my senior year, the last year with the guys I’ve grown up with and played with.”
McWilliams did impress his opponent Thursday night.
“Mason’s a great player; I have (the) utmost respect for him,” Zach Lowther said. “He will do great things for OU, and I hope to see him there, when I play [at Xavier].”
“I’d love that, that’s awesome,” the Cuyahoga Heights ace said.
Lamoreaux said it was almost a collegiate preview.
“It looked like two college pitchers going at each other, and that’s exactly what those guys are gonna be,” he said. “I honestly think you saw two of the better teams in the state of Ohio playing. That’s more like a state final than it is a regional.”