CHILLICOTHE, Ohio — The pitchers were dueling and it simply came down to defense.
In Tuesday night’s Division IV district semifinal at Paint Stadium, SHS senior Trey Pickens and Notre Dame junior C.J. Corns both pitched a complete game and allowed one earned run apiece. However, the Tornado defense committed four more errors than NDHS, allowing the Titans to claim the 4-3 win.
Southern (14-6) — the No. 2 seed, making its first district appearance since 2013, when it won its seventh straight district crown — was scoreless in the first two innings, leaving one runner on base in the opening frame inning and stranded two more in the second.
Third-seeded Notre Dame broke the scoreless tie with two outs in the top of the third inning, when Tyler Speas singled home Cameron Rodriguez and, on the same play, Drew Cassidy scored on an error.
The Tornadoes answered right back with one out in the bottom of the third, when Pickens singled home Logan Drummer. Later in the frame, Billy Harmon drove in Dylan Smith to tie the game at two.
NDHS reestablished its lead with two outs in the top of the fourth, when Sam Kayser singled home Tyler Shaw.
The Purple and Gold responded right back, as Jensen Anderson scored on a two-out passed ball in the home half of the fourth, tying the game at three.
The Titans were back in control in the top of the fifth, however, as Cassidy singled, moved from first to third on a error, and then scored on another error.
In the bottom of the fifth, Harmon doubled with two outs and then advanced to third on a passed ball, but a groundout stranded the game-tying run 90 feet away.
Southern was retired in order in both the sixth and the seventh innings, as Notre Dame sealed the 4-3 victory and the spot in Wednesday’s district final, against South Webster.
The Tornadoes committed five errors, all of which came in the three innings that NDHS scored.
“It wasn’t about making a major mistake, it was about guys trying to make a play,” second-year SHS head coach Kyle Wickline said. “You can’t second guess them trying to make a play and trying help the team.”
The Titans committed just one error, but it led to a Tornado run.
Corns earned the win on the mound for Notre Dame and struck out 12 batters, including five of the final six he faced. The Titans’ junior allowed three runs, one earned, on five hits and four walks.
Pickens fanned three batters and suffered the loss for SHS, allowing four runs, one earned, on eight hits and three walks.
“Corns is a heck of a pitcher, probably one of the best we’ve seen all year,” Wickline said. “Maybe we needed to have a little more discipline at the plate, like we did last week. Trey pitched a helluva game.”
The SHS offense was led by Smith, who was 2-for-4 with a run scored. Drummer and Harmon both doubled once, with Drummer scoring a run and Harmon earning an RBI. Pickens contributed a single and an RBI to the Tornado cause, while Anderson chipped in with a run scored.
Kayser, Cassidy and Grant Spark each went 2-for-4 to lead the victors. Cassidy doubled once and scored twice, Spark crossed home plate once, while Kayser earned an RBI.
Both teams stranded six runners on base in the game.
The last time these teams met in the postseason was 2010, when the Purple and Gold took an 8-5 victory in the district final.
This marks the final game in the Purple and Gold for seniors Blake Johnson, Haden Miller, Trey Pickens and Clayton Wood.
“They’re going to be tremendously missed,” Wickline said of the seniors. “They got us back to being here (at districts) every year. It was their goal to try and get here, and they’re here.
“It didn’t work out tonight, but I think it will help the young kids,” Wickline added. “We’ve made strides, and we’ll continue to move forward. This is all a learning experience. We’re losing four seniors, and I know they’re big parts of the program, but we have other guys coming back and we’ll be ready to go next year.”
The Purple and Gold have upped their win total in back-to-back seasons, as they went 8-16 in 2015 and 11-12 last year.
Alex Hawley can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2100.