NEW MADISON – For a fourth consecutive year the Tri-Village baseball team won its Ohio High School Athletic Association tournament opener, defeating Springfield Catholic Central 7-6 on Wednesday.
With Wednesday’s victory Tri-Village advances to play Southeastern in a sectional championship game at 5 p.m. Wednesday in Covington.
“To be in the sectional finals again is a big thrill,” Tri-Village coach Jim Maples said. “Southeastern has got a great ball club. We’ll have to play very well next Wednesday, and I think we’re capable of doing that.”
To get into the sectional final Tri-Village had to hold off a late rally by Catholic Central.
Tri-Village struck first in Wednesday’s game with three first inning runs. Jackson Plush drew a one-out walk and Jonny Wilson doubled to put two runners in scoring position, setting up a bunt single by Jared Buckley that drove in Plush and put the Patriots up 1-0.
After Buckley stole second, Luke Wheeler drove in Wilson with a sacrifice grounder. Buckley then made it 3-0 by stealing home when Mason Sullenbarger, who had walked, was caught in a rundown.
“I thought the first inning getting the three runs was huge to give us some momentum, but Springfield Catholic comes right back and stays right after it,” Maples aid.
Catholic Central cut Tri-Village’s lead to 3-2 with a pair of runs in the third inning and then tied the game with a run in the fourth.
Tri-Village regained the lead in the bottom of the fourth when Sullenbarger scored on Christian Ricker’s two-out single, putting the Patriots back on top, 4-3.
In the fifth inning Tri-Village scored three more runs, which proved to be crucial. Plush reached base on an error and Wilson doubled to put two runners in scoring position with no outs. Buckley then drove a sacrifice fly into center, bringing in Plush to make it 5-3.
Wheeler recorded an infield single with Wilson racing all the way from second to home to increase the advantage to 6-3. Wheeler then stole second and scored on a single by Camren Munchel, making it a 7-3 game.
“There was no time I sat in here and felt like we had anything wrapped up in any form,” Maples said. “We wanted to get more runs than what we did. I wish we would have finished off the fifth and sixth inning with some more runs out there. I thought we were capable of getting more then.”
In the seventh Catholic Central almost made Tri-Village pay for not capitalizing on all its scoring opportunities. The Irish loaded the bases thanks to two errors and a walk. Two more walks brought in two runs, reducing Tri-Village’s lead to 7-5.
“We let the one guy get on on an error and one little thing can change moment right now, and it sure did,” Maples said.
A fielder’s choice brought in another run, making it 7-6 with runners on first and third. Ricker then came through with a game-ending strikeout to preserve the victory.
“We had our best two pitchers here,” Maples said. “Jonny, his time here has been our top pitcher. He struggled a little bit of late. Christian has really stepped up and done real well.”
Wilson earned the win to improve to 6-2 on the year. In 4 1/3 innings he allowed three earned runs on seven hits, five walks and five strikeouts.
Ricker went 2 2/3 innings to earn the save. He allowed three unearned runs on no hits, three walks and two strikeouts.
With Ricker facing a jam in the seventh, Maples considered putting Wilson back on the mound.
“We thought real serious about coming back to Jonny,” the Patriot coach said. “We did give that thought, but we felt like Christian would come back and battle back.”
Offensively Wilson was 3-for-3 with two doubles and scored two runs. Buckley was 2-for-2 with two stolen bases and two RBI.
Tri-Village had nine hits and two errors on Wednesday while Catholic Central had seven hits and two errors.
Kyle Shaner may be reached at 937-569-4316. Follow me on Twitter @KShanerAdvocate or get updates on Facebook by searching Darke County Sports or Advocate 360. For more features online go to dailyadvocate.com.