CHILLICOTHE, Ohio — Reclaiming their crown and returning to regionals.
The Southern baseball team — which won seven consecutive district titles between 2007-and-2013 — ended a five-year drought and will be headed back to the Sweet 16, as the second-seeded Tornadoes defeated No. 1 seed Portsmouth Clay by a 8-0 tally in Wednesday’s Division IV district final at VA Memorial Stadium in Ross County.
Southern (18-7) — which now has 13 district titles in program history — scored Wednesday’s game-winning run in the top of the third inning, as senor Logan Drummer reached on an error, and then scored on another error. Still with no outs in the third, Jensen Anderson doubled home Gage Shuler and Noah Diddle to give the Purple and Gold a 3-0 lead.
Clay (20-9) — the Southern Ohio Conference Division I champions — escaped the third inning without allowing anymore damage, however, as a double-play and a flyout ended the frame.
Drummer singled home Will Wickline in the top of the fourth inning, extending the Tornado lead to 4-0. The Panthers made it to third base for the first-and-only time in the game in the bottom of the fourth, but a groundout ultimately left the bases loaded.
Helping his own cause, SHS freshman pitcher Will Wickline hit a two-out single in the top of the fifth inning, bringing both Anderson and Ryan Acree around to score Drummer was hit by a pitch and later scored in the top of the sixth inning, and then Coltin Parker singled home Anderson in the seventh, capping off the Tornadoes’ 8-0 victory.
Following the contest, fourth-year Tornadoes head coach Kyle Wickline commended his players for helping get the program back district championship form, and discussed what it took to win this crown.
“These guys have worked hard, these seniors, the kids coming up through,” Coach Wickline said. “We’re back where we want to be, year in and year out.
“We had great defense, and the pitching staff did well. Tonight, Will threw a great game. For a freshman to come out and do what he did was definitely needed with the way we used our pitching staff last night. Offensively, we took advantage of what was given to us. We had some base running mistakes that we’ll clear up before next Thursday, but the positive is, we got what we wanted. We had some timely hits again, it’s just going to take that in tournament play.”
Will Wickline was the winning pitcher of record in 6.2 shut out innings, striking out seven batters and walking three, while surrendering four hits. Acree faced one batter — at the start of the bottom half of the third inning — and struck him out in just four pitches.
Shaden Malone took the pitching loss in 4.2 innings for the Panthers, striking out six batters, hitting two and walking one, while surrendering six runs, one earned, on six hits. Clay Cottle pitched .2 frames, hit two batters and gave up an earned run, while Reece Whitley went 1.2 innings, struck out two and walked two, while allowing an earned run and a hit.
Leading Southern at the plate, Anderson was 2-for-3 with a double, two runs scored and two runs batted in, while Parker was 2-for-4 with an RBI. Wickline singled once, scored once and drove in two runs, Drummer singled once, scored twice and picked up one RBI, Billy Harmon chipped in with a single, while Shuler, Acree, and Diddle scored a run apiece.
Cottle, Bradley McCleese, Evan Woods and Caleb McNutt each singled once for CHS.
Clay was responsible for five of the game’s six errors, while stranding five runners on base, one fewer than Southern.
The Tornadoes will be welcomed back to the Region 15 tournament by a familiar foe, Newark Catholic, which ended Southern’s season in each of its last seven regional appearances. Coach Wickline noted the task ahead of them, but believes his squad has the ability to take the next step.
“Of course Newark Catholic is going to be very well-coached, they’re a very good ball club,” Coach Wickline said. “Anytime you’re taking that step to the regionals, you just have to go out and play, and that’s what we’re going to do. I want them to be loose, just go out and play, and do what is necessary for us to win.”
The Purple and Gold will take a five-game winning streak into their clash with the 20-9 Green Wave, which is slated for 2 p.m. on Thursday at Beavers Field in Lancaster.
Alex Hawley can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2100.