VERSAILLES – Having played a difficult schedule throughout the season, Versailles is confident that it’s ready for the next tough test it will face in the Ohio High School Athletic Association regional tournament.
The Versailles baseball team is in the OHSAA regional tournament for the first time since 2012 and will play Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy in the regional semifinals at 5 p.m. Thursday at Athletes in Action in Xenia.
“The competition that we face during the year is going to prepare us to play on Thursday,” Versailles coach Ryan Schlater said. “Cincinnati Hills is going to be a good game.”
None of the current Versailles players have ever played in the regional baseball tournament as the current seniors were eighth graders the last time the Tigers advanced this far in the playoffs. However, the competition they’ve faced all year has the Midwest Athletic Conference champions feeling prepared for the challenge.
“The competition we play in the MAC is just … it’s unbelievable,” senior Jared Niekamp said. “Then when we go play teams from like Cincinnati and the Dayton area it helps us out a lot.”
Versailles has faced numerous teams that are still playing in the OHSAA regional tournament, beginning the year with scrimmages against Division I regional qualifier Bellefontaine and Division II regional qualifier Tippecanoe.
The regular season also saw the Tigers taking on many tough teams including Division III regional qualifier Anna, Division IV regional qualifier Tri-County North and Division IV regional qualifier Fort Recovery, who Versailles played a second time on Tuesday in preparation for the regional tournament.
“We have a lot of confidence in ourselves to go compete with anyone that we play against,” senior Brett McEldowney said.
Versailles’ next challenge is Cincinnati Hills, who is ranked 11th in Division III by the Ohio High School Baseball Coaches Association. Having watched Cincinnati Hills defeat Summit Country Day 8-0 at Fifth Third Field in Dayton earlier this month, Schlater said the Tigers will need timely hitting to take down the Eagles.
“We’re pretty confident in our defense and pitching that Brett’s going to throw a good game for us,” the Tiger coach said. “We just have to come out and put up some runs so we have a chance to win.”
McEldowney is glad to have the ball in his hands as he seeks to help Versailles reach the regional finals.
“I wouldn’t want it any other way,” he said. “I hope I can give our guys the best chance to get to regional finals and compete. I know they’ll have my back the whole time so I just want to help a Tiger win.”
It won’t all be on McEldowney’s shoulders, though, as Niekamp said it’s going to take a complete team effort to keep advancing in the tournament.
“Not just one person is going to do it,” he said. “Together I think we’ll keep it rolling.”
Versailles, which is 21-4 on the season, has won eight games in a row and 12 of its last 13 so it has plenty of momentum heading into Thursday.
“We’re going to have to hit pretty good and keep playing our defense and we should be good,” junior Kyle Subler said.
If Versailles can get past Cincinnati Hills, it would play either Anna or Marion Pleasant in the regional championship game on Friday with a spot in the state final four at stake.
For the Tigers, and especially the seniors whose last day of school is Thursday, they know this is the opportunity they’ve been waiting for.
“It’s kind of now or never for us,” McEldowney said. “It’s our last opportunity.”
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.