HAMILTON – Versailles had several opportunities to score Friday night but couldn’t take advantage of them as the Tigers lost 2-0 to Cincinnati Country Day in a district championship baseball game.
Versailles stranded nine runners in Friday’s Ohio High School Athletic Association tournament game at Hamilton High School. The Tigers had the bases loaded twice – once with no outs and once with one out – and had another opportunity with runners on second and third with one out but just couldn’t get a big run-scoring hit.
“It’s a game of chances,” Versailles baseball coach Ryan Schlater said. “We could have taken a few more chances. We could have squeezed. We could have done a little bit more. But you know with those chances you take there’s risks that you have so I felt like the guys that we had at the plate there could come through with a base hit, but it didn’t go that way for us today. We had plenty of chances. It just didn’t happen.”
The first big opportunity came in the top half of the first inning when Versailles’ first three batters all reached base without recording a hit. Kyle Subler led off the game with a walk, Keaton McEldowney reached on an error, and Kurtis Rutschilling was hit by a pitch to load the bases with no outs.
However, Country Day pitcher TJ Brock induced a lineout then got back-to-back strikeouts to leave the bases juiced.
After Versailles missed out on a scoring opportunity in the top half of the first, Country Day brought in a run in the bottom half of the frame.
Brock and Ronnie Allen drew back-to-back one-out walks then Trey Smith drilled a RBI double into right to put Country Day up 1-0.
After Versailles recorded the second out of the inning, Country Day drew another walk to load the bases. However, Versailles pitcher Cole Niekamp was able to limit the damage to a single run as he got an inning-ending strikeout to strand three runners.
Following a one-two-three second inning, Versailles again had a big scoring opportunity in the third.
McEldowney started the rally with a one-out triple then Rutschilling walked to put runners on the corners. The Tigers thought they had scored a run shortly thereafter with a balk by Brock, but the umpires didn’t call it.
“The umpire saw it differently,” Schlater said. “You know, it happens. You can’t dwell on it.”
The Tigers still had a great opportunity and moments later Noah Richard was hit by a pitch, loading the bases still with just one out.
However, Brock again worked his way out of trouble with a strikeout and a grounder back to the mound to leave the bases loaded again.
Country Day again poured salt in Versailles’ wounds in the bottom half of the inning as the Indians followed up another missed scoring opportunity by the Tigers with a run of their own. Brock led off the bottom of the third with a double and scored on a RBI single by Allen, making it 2-0.
Those were the final two hits of the game Niekamp surrendered, but all three of Country Day’s hits in the game contributed to runs.
“Three hits in a game, not too bad,” Schlater said. “Unfortunately they had the big hit that they got that scored a run and then got another one there. They made the most of the opportunities they got on the base paths today.”
Versailles’ final big scoring opportunity came in the fifth inning when Subler led off with an infield single and McEldowney reached base on an error.
Rutschilling advanced Subler to third with a sacrifice fly and moments later McEldowney took second base uncontested. However, once again Versailles couldn’t get its runners in and both were left stranded in scoring position.
Versailles’ final base runner came in the sixth inning when Jacob Heitkamp was hit by a pitch – the third batter Brock hit – but he too was stranded as the Tigers went down in a shutout defeat.
McEldowney led Versailles’ offense with his triple and twice reached base on errors. Subler had the Tigers’ only other hit, an infield single, and he also walked once. Rutschilling was on base twice as he was hit by a pitch and walked.
Niekamp pitched the complete game, allowing two runs on three hits, six walks and six strikeouts.
With Friday’s loss Versailles finished the season with a 20-7 record. The Tigers tied for second in the Midwest Athletic Conference with Delphos St. John’s and Minster.
“Back-to-back 20-win seasons,” Schlater said, “that doesn’t really happen too much. That kind of separates the good teams from the elite teams, and I told them I think they’re elite. It doesn’t matter what happened today.”
Friday also marked the end of the high school baseball careers of Versailles seniors Jacob Heitkamp, Austin Knapke, Isaac Ruhenkamp and Kyle Subler.
“They’re first of all great players, but most importantly they’re just great people,” Schlater said. “This is my first kind of group that I came through all four years with them. I’ve seen them grow from freshmen all the way up to now seniors. You just can’t say enough about how good of kids they are; that comes from just how they were raised. They’re just good people. They have good opportunities in front of them. I have no doubt they’re going to be successful.”
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.