TUPPERS PLAINS, Ohio — In a sectional final rubber match, all you can do it put your ace on the mound and hope for the best.
The Eastern and Southern baseball teams — which each claimed a victory over the other in the regular season — met for a third time in the Division IV Sectional Final, on Tuesday night at EHS. The Eagles and Tornadoes combined for 16 strikeouts and zero walks, while both teams got a complete game effort from their starting pitchers, but it was the host Green and Gold that came out on top, by a 3-0 final.
The game’s first 10 batters were retired in order before Josh Brewer came through with a one-out single in the second inning for the Eagles (15-9). After advancing to second base on an SHS (11-12) error, Brewer scored on the Tornadoes’ second defensive mishap of the frame, giving the hosts a 1-0 advantage.
The Eagles strung together three consecutive hits in the third inning, but a base running error and a 9-4-6 double play allowed the Purple and Gold to escape the frame unscathed.
Eastern pushed its lead to 3-0 with two outs in the bottom of the fourth inning, as Dillon Swatzel singled home Ethen Richmond and Jesse Morris.
Southern’s first base runner of the game came with two-outs in the top of the fifth inning, when Billy Harmon was hit by a pitch. However, EHS senior Cameron Richmond struck out the next batter to keep the Eagle lead at 3-0.
Southern junior Wesley Clark singled to lead off the sixth inning, marking the Tornadoes’ first hit of the game. After a fielder’s choice and a fly-out to third base, the Purple and Gold put two runners in scoring position, thanks to an EHS error. However, a fly-out to second base stranded both Tornado runners and kept Eastern’s advantage at 3-0.
With two outs in the top of the seventh, Harmon singled to give the guests some hope, but a ground-out to the pitcher capped off Eastern’s 3-0 victory and its 19th sectional crown.
In the last 12 years, Eastern has won 11 sectional titles, and this is the 13th sectional championship in Brian Bowen’s 16-year tenure as EHS skipper.
“I’ve not always enjoyed it as much as I should,” Bowen said of winning the sectional title. “For it to come against a great opponent like Southern, it’s a great win and I’m really proud of our kids. Coach Wickline has done a great job with them this year, they’ve came along way.”
The winning pitcher of record was Cameron Richmond, who allowed just two hits in a complete game shutout. He struck out nine batters and hit one, while walking zero.
“He did a great job,” Bowen said of Cameron Richmond. “He’s a senior, he’s worked his butt off and it’s nice for him to have the memory of his last time on our field, pitching the way that he did. He did a phenomenal job and I’m glad he got that experience.”
Suffering the loss on the mound was SHS junior Trey Pickens, who allowed three runs, two earned, on seven hits and one hit batter. Pickens also walked zero batters, while striking out seven.
“It pretty much came down to two pretty good pitchers throwing tonight,” Southern head coach Kyle Wickline said. “Cam threw a heck of a game for Eastern, he kept us off balance all night. He’s real solid and he’s one of the better pitcher in our very strong league. Trey did a great job for us, matching (Cameron Richmond), but we had a few mistakes. We had a couple throwing mistakes, some things just snow-balled a little bit and that hurt us.”
Brewer led the EHS offense, going 2-for-2 with one run scored, while John Little added a double for the hosts. Swatzel singled once and drove in two runs, Morris singled once and scored once in the win, while Owen Arix and Austin Coleman each had one single. Ethen Richmond scored once to round out the EHS offensive effort.
Clark and Harmon both singled once to lead the Tornadoes at the plate.
The Tornadoes committed two errors in the setback, while EHS had one. Both teams left four runners on base in the game.
EHS claims the season series over Southern by a 2-1 count, as the Eagles won at home on March 29, by a 11-3 final, and Southern took a 4-1 decision on April 15, at Star Mill Park.
This marks the final game in the Purple and Gold for SHS seniors Kris Shortridge, Jeremy Dutton and Andrew Shockey.
“We’re losing three seniors, but we have pretty much everyone in our starting nine back,” Wickline said. “We have a good core coming back and we want to have a good offseason, play some summer ball and get ready for next year. I think we made big strides this year, finishing fifth in a tough league. With our kids coming back, I think we’ll be in a good spot next year.”
The Eagles will advance to the Division IV District Semifinal at Paint Stadium, where they will take on the winner of Portsmouth Notre Dame and Ironton St. Joseph. The sectional final between the Titans and Flyers was suspended in the fifth inning on Tuesday night, with top-seeded NDHS leading 3-0.
Alex Hawley can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2100.