LANCASTER, Ohio — The more things change, the more they stay the same.
For the past six years the Southern baseball team has faced the Green Wave in the regional tournament at Beavers Field. This time the Tornadoes came in as the 20-win team and the top seed, while Newark Catholic had just 18 wins. However, Newark Catholic proved yet again that they are a forced to be reckoned with in division four, defeating the previously unbeaten Tornadoes 7-2 Thursday in Fairfield County to advance to the regional final.
Newark Catholic (19-7) sat down the first two Southern (27-1) batters via strike out before senior Ethan Martin drew a walk. The Tornadoes could not get on the board in the top of the first however after Danny Ramthun grounded into a 4-6 fielder’s choice to end the inning.
The first two Green Wave batters in the home half of the inning flew out to the infield, before Jimmy Lough took the 1-0 pitch over the left field fence for a solo home run. The next batter flew out to the first baseman to end the inning, but Newark Catholic held the 1-0 lead.
The Tornadoes were retired in order in the top of the second, while Newark Catholic led off the home half of the second with a single. After a walk the Green Wave had runners on the corners with one out. Southern’s Ryan Taylor picked off the runner at first and struck out the next batter to escape the inning unscathed.
After two quick outs to begin the top half of the third SHS junior Hunter Johnson reached on a NCHS error. The Green Wave bounced back and struck out the next batter to end the inning. Southern’s defense got the quick inning they greatly needed in the third sitting down the Green Wave in order.
Newark Catholic made short work of SHS in the fourth needing just six pitches to get out of the inning. After beginning the home half or the fourth with a strike out, NCHS strung together three consecutive singles, scoring one run in the process. Newark Catholic flew out to shortstop for the second out of the inning but the next batter singled, driving in two runs. A line out to shortstop ended the inning but not before the Green Wave struck for three runs, expanding their lead to 4-0.
After a strike out to begin the fifth Southern’s Trenton Deem earned a base on balls to give the Tornadoes their first base runner since the third. Marcus Hill advanced Deem on a ground out, giving SHS a runner in scoring position for the first time in the game. Ryan Taylor broke through for Southern’s first hit of the game which drove in Deem, putting the Tornadoes on the scoreboard. Newark Catholic bounced back to strike out the next batter and end the SHS fifth.
Newark Catholic’s James Thomas drew a walk to begin the home half of the fifth and proceeded to steal scored base. After striking out the second batter of the inning the Tornadoes surrendered a RBI single to Lough giving NCHS a 5-1 lead. The next batter hit a taylor-made double play ball to the third baseman but the throw to second was wide, allowing both runners to reach safely. A bloop single loaded the bases for NCHS and a sacrifice fly to right field scored a run to give NCHS the 6-1 lead. Southern escaped the inning without farther damage, after getting a ground out to the second baseman.
Southern’s Andrew Roseberry reached first base on a dropped third strike and advanced two bases after stealing second and taking third on a wild pitch. Southern’s Danny Ramthun drove Roseberry in after grounding out to the shortstop, cutting the NCHS lead to 6-2. The Green Wave struck out the next batter to escape the inning.
After getting the first batter to ground out in the bottom of the sixth, Southern surrendered a single to Newark Catholic’s number nine hitter. A sacrifice bunt laid down by the Green Wave worked better than they could have expected, as the runner that advanced to second base attempted to take third. A wild throw from the Tornadoes first baseman not only allowed the runner to take third but also to score and expand the NCHS lead to 7-2. The next batter flew out to center field to retire the side.
Dustin Custer was hit by a pitch to lead of the Tornadoes seventh, and Deem followed with a single. A ground ball back to the pitcher looked like a taylor-made double play for the Green Wave, but the throw to second was wide allowing NCHS to only retire one. With two runners in scoring position NCHS retired the next two batters to end the game and take the 7-2 victory over Southern.
Future Ohio State Buckeye Jimmy Lough earned the victory after giving up two runs, one earned, on two hits. Lough struck out nine batters, walked two, and hit one in a complete game effort.
Ryan Taylor was credited with the loss after giving up seven runs, six earned, on nine hits and two walks. Taylor struck out five batters while pitching a complete game.
Tanner Potts led NCHS with three hits, while Lough had two hits including a home run. Lough led the Green Wave with two runs scored, while James Thomas and Hunter Nance led with one stolen base apiece. Lough, Nance, and Ryan Fitzgerald each finished with two RBI in the contest.
Ryan Taylor and Trenton Deem had Southern’s lone hits, while Andrew Roseberry stole the only base for the Tornadoes. Deem and Roseberry scored the SHS runs, while Taylor and Danny Ramthun had the runs batted in.
Newark Catholic finished with one error on the night while Southern finished with two. “When you play a really good team your mistakes are magnified,” said Southern head coach Ryan Lemley. “They did what good teams do and what we’ve done to teams all year, they took advantage of those mistakes.”
Currently, no southeastern Ohio team has been to the regional tournament consecutively more than the Tornadoes. Wheelersburg is currently second with five straight appearances. “We’re real proud of what we’ve done,” said Lemley. “Obviously six straight districts, not all these kids were on all those teams and it precedes them so to speak, we’re real proud of that.”
Southern’s last loss also came from the Green Wave, that loss occurred in the regional final last year on May 27th. Newark Catholic has ended Southern’s post season for six consecutive seasons, while advancing to the state in four of the six opportunities. The Green Wave fell to Berlin Highland Friday night 5-4 in nine innings.
In 2011 Newark Catholic topped the Tornadoes 7-0, while in 2010 the Green Wave won 7-4. Both of those games were in the regional final. In 2009 NCHS took the 11-4 victory over Southern, in 2008 the Green Wave won 14-3, and in 2007 NCHS won 8-6. Those three games were all in the regional semifinal.
This marks the final game for Southern seniors Ethan Martin, Dustin Custer, Marcus Hill, Ryan Taylor, and Andrew Roseberry. “Those guys did a lot for our program,” said Lemley. “They’ll obviously be remembered for years to come.”
Southern finished the season as Tri-Valley Conference Hocking Division champion, sectional champion, and district champion.