The undefeated Mason Comets had allowed a total of four runs in their last seven games, but Northmont put up a four spot on the state’s No. 1-ranked team before the first inning had ended Thursday afternoon.
And that was all the offense Thunderbolts pitcher Tommy Stoffel would need as he threw a complete-game, six-hitter to lift Northmont to a stunning 6-1 upset in a Division I regional semifinal at the University of Cincinnati’s Marge Schott Stadium.
“How do you describe that,” a beaming Chuck Harlow asked after watching his Bolts record the first regional victory in his 29 years at the school.
“Our kids prepared all week for it, and we thought we could play with them,” Harlow continued. “And man, did we play with them.”
Northmont (23-7) will play for the first regional championship in program history at 5 p.m. today at UC against defending state champion Moeller (28-2), which beat Lakota East 10-1 in the other semifinal.
The Comets end the best season in school history with a record of 26-1 and a heavy dose of disappointment after committing five errors, three of them in the Bolts’ four-run first.
“One of those games today,” Mason coach Ken Gray said. “We haven’t done it all year. Three errors, a hit batter and two walks all in one inning.”
The four-run start marked the first time the Comets had played from behind since the season opener and it gave a big boost to Northmont starter Tommy Stoffel, who out-dueled Mason starter Andrew McDonald, his future teammate and roommate at Virginia Tech.
“We laughed about it before the game,” Stoffel said. “We actually bet a dinner on it, the first dinner down there. He’s a great guy. We just ended up playing better defense.”
Stoffel (8-1) struck out eight, walked one and had three of his team’s eight hits. McDonald (6-1), who had not lost a game since early in his sophomore season, didn’t allow an earned run, but lasted just four-plus innings, allowing six hits with no strikeouts, three walks and a hit batter.
Austin Sanders went 1 for 3 with two RBIs for Northmont, and Braydon Focht earned an RBI with a bases-loaded walk in the four-run first.
“I told our assistant coaches, ‘I wonder if these guys have ever trailed this year,’ ” Harlow said. “If we can get out there and score two or three runs early and make them play from behind, we’ll see what happens. And sure enough.
“But what a season (Mason) had,” he added. “Kenny had that team on fire all year long, and they’ve got some great players. It’s a big victory for us. A big victory.”