CARLISLE – Orange and black invaded Sam Franks’ Field for the Ohio High School Athletic Association Division III sectional final between Versailles and Arcanum Wednesday afternoon.
The Tigers plated the only run of the game in the bottom of the fifth and captured the 1-0 victory.
With their respective seasons on the line, starting pitchers Cole Niekamp of Versailles and Conner Pohl of Arcanum each responded to the pressure and pitched an outstanding game.
Cole Niekamp pitched a complete game shutout, allowing only two hits while striking out six and scattering four walks. He threw 95 total pitches of which 57 were strikes and started out 17 of the 27 hitters he faced with strike one. After the second inning Cole Niekamp retired 15 of the final 17 batters to come to the plate and the last eight in a row.
“Cole’s been one of our top pitchers this year,” Versailles baseball coach Ryan Schlater said. “Control-wise he didn’t really have it, but he was wildly effective. Got some guys to swing at pitches out of the zone. He did what he had to do. He pitched a great game overall. I think he was trying to do a little too much at first, not letting the defense work.”
Pohl pitched six innings giving up just the one run while surrendering three hits. He struck out six and the only hitter that he walked would be the runner that would score. He threw 70 pitches, 46 for strikes, and threw a first pitch strike to 14 of 23 batters he faced.
Arcanum had its best scoring opportunity in the first inning. Cole Burrell led off with a walk and took second on a wild pick-off attempt. With one out Pohl singled to center, advancing Burrell to third.
Clean-up hitter Austin Baker hit a sharp ground ball toward shortstop. Austin Knapke made the play on the ball and threw to Kurtis Rutschilling, who fired the ball to Jared Niekamp waiting at first to complete a double play and end the inning.
“That’s a big double play,” Coach Schlater said. “That’s a key play of the game. If we don’t make that they score first and it’s a different game from there.”
The Trojans threatened again in the second. They tried to take advantage of two Cole Niekamp walks but again stopped short of denting the plate. The third inning again saw Arcanum put the lead-off man on and bunted into scoring position but could advance him no further.
“We had opportunities,” Arcanum coach Randy Baker said. “We couldn’t get the big hit.”
The game advanced to the bottom of the fifth with the score still at 0-0. With one out Collin Peters drew a walk and advanced to second on an errant pick-off throw. Jacob Watren was at the plate and singled into right field. Peters came roaring around third as the throw came in from the outfield, but he was safe easily, making the score 1-0 Tigers.
With two outs Kyle Subler would single Watren to third, but the rally died there.
Versailles, 15-3, advances to the district finals to play Summit Country Day 18-3-1 at 5 p.m. Friday at Carlisle High School.