MANCHESTER, Ohio — The trip was perhaps a bit too business casual, but with the deal closed … the next destination will be all about the business.
The Southern baseball team committed an uncharacteristic five errors, but the ninth seeded Tornadoes ultimately made an early 3-run advantage hold up Tuesday night during a 6-3 victory over host Manchester in a Division IV sectional final contest in Adams County.
The Tornadoes (12-5) built a quick 3-0 lead in the top of the first and was up 3-1 after an inning of play, and the guests led by as many as five runs (6-1) by the midway point of the sixth.
The eighth seeded Greyhounds (14-5) rallied with two runs in the home half of the sixth to trim the deficit in half, but MHS was never closer the rest of the way.
SHS starter Will Wickline — who went the distance for the winning decision — recorded the last of his nine strikeouts with two away and the bases loaded in the bottom of the seventh, allowing the guests to sneak away with the 3-run decision.
The Tornadoes — who secured the program’s 23rd overall sectional title and first postseason banner since winning the D-4 district crown back in 2019 — advance to Saturday’s district semifinal round, where they will face top-ranked Lucasville Valley at 7 p.m. Saturday at the Chillicothe VA Memorial Stadium.
After COVID cancelled the 2020 campaign and a rare winless postseason last spring, seventh-year SHS skipper Kyle Wickline was glad to be headed back to the district level … especially following a 2022 season that saw his squad win an outright championship in Tri-Valley Conference Hocking Division play.
And, with at least one more game waiting in the wings, Wickline is confident that his troops will be ready for the job at hand this weekend.
“We show up and we play baseball. This is what we’ve done all year long. We don’t score a lot of runs, but we do know how to generate runs and we do all of the little things that it takes to be successful,” Wickline said. “We had too many errors in the field tonight. Maybe that was the nerves of a younger team or the fact that we haven’t played in about a week. Either way, that’s something that we’ve got to get cleaned up and quick. There’s no more room for that at this point in the tournament.
“This is a big moment for this program and these kids, especially with the way the season has turned out for us. We’re proud and we’ll enjoy it, but we have more work to put in and goals to shoot for. We have to be better if we want to have a chance to keep this thing a going. At this point, the goal for everyone at this level is perfection. That’s what we need to be aiming for this weekend.”
Southern had six batters get hit by a pitch by night’s end, and half of those came in the top half of the first.
Kaiden Michael and Lincoln Rose ended up at first and second with one out due to being hit by pitches, then Wickline received a walk that loaded the bases.
Michael scored on a wild pitch while the other two runners moved up a base, then Josiah Smith doubled in both Rose and Wickline for a quick 3-0 cushion.
A dropped third strike gave Manchester a baserunner with one away in the home half of the first, then a pair of errors allowed Logan Bell to come around and score for a 3-1 deficit after one full frame.
With the bases loaded and one away in the top of the third, Smith delivered a single that allowed Rose to come plateward for a 4-1 SHS advantage.
The Tornadoes extended that lead to 6-1 in the sixth as Michael scored on a bases-loaded walk to Brandon Laudermilt, then Derek Griffith came home on a 2-out Brayden Otto single.
Another Southern error allowed both Jackson Poole and Dalton McDonald to score in the bottom of the sixth for Manchester, making it a 6-3 contest headed into the final frame.
The guests outhit the Greyhounds by a 6-4 overall margin and also had all five errors in the contest. SHS also stranded 10 of the 17 runners left on base.
Smith paced Southern with two hits and three RBIs, while Rose, Wickline, Laudermilt and Otto added a safety apiece to the triumph.
Poole, McDonald, Karson Reaves and Drew Kennedy had a hit each in the setback for MHS.
Wickline allowed three runs (one earned), four hits and two walks over seven frames while fanning nine. Bell took the loss after surrendering four earned runs, four hits and two walks over 2.1 innings while striking out one.
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Bryan Walters can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2101.