- By Laurel Pfahler Contributing Writer
After failing to capitalize more than a few times with runners in scoring position, the Lakota West High School baseball team got a little help to push the winning runs across.
With the game tied 1-1 in the top of the ninth inning, Bryce Johnson’s one-out double on a hit-and-run became the catalyst for a two-base error, allowing Frankie Schmitt and Johnson to score the go-ahead runs.
The score held up for a 3-1 win over Centerville in a Division I regional semifinal Thursday at the University of Cincinnati’s Marge Schott Stadium. West meets St. Xavier, a winner over Fairfield, in the regional final at 5 p.m. on Friday at UC.
DIVISION I: Fairfield ousted by Bombers 4-1
DIVISION III: Carlisle advances to regional final
“The big thing was just putting it in play,” West coach Greg Leurck said. “Having speed already on the base with Frankie … and Bryce is very good with bat control, so I put the hit-and-run on and their shortstop was covering and it just kind of squibbed through the hole and put the pressure on them with the base runner.
“It’s tense. In the tournament, anything can happen and guys were going out there and giving it their all. We knew if we put the pressure on them on the bases, at some point we could cause a mistake to happen and it did.”
West (24-5) put plenty of pressure on the Elks throughout but left nine runners on base, including six in scoring position.
Centerville (17-10) had a chance to take a big lead in the bottom of the fourth when Morgan Colopy’s base hit drove in Alex Firsdon with no outs and another runner on to make it 1-0. However, West pitcher Jacob Kates minimized the damage with a pair of strikeouts and some help from a fielder’s choice that caught Riley Poulton out in a rundown on the third-base line.
The Firebirds responded quickly with A.J. Petersen’s leadoff triple in the top of the fifth, followed by Johnson’s RBI infield single with one out to tie the game. West loaded the bases with two outs but couldn’t get another run across until the ninth.
“You like to jump out early, but we just had to stick with it and stay with the process, and we ended up getting it done,” said Johnson, who went 2-for-4 with one run and one RBI. “It feels great. We still have three games to win, so this is just the next step.”
Kates (10-1), who scattered seven hits and struck out eight, went the distance on the mound for West, despite sitting at 121 pitches going into the ninth inning with a 125 limit.
Centerville pitcher Joey Hecht left after the seventh after giving up one run on four hits with two walks and four strikeouts. Reliever Nick Hoffman allowed the final two runs, both unearned.
“Both my pitchers were solid, they never got rattled, and I thought we hit one of the top pitchers in the state pretty good,” Elks coach Jason Whited said. “They just executed their opportunities and we didn’t.
“You lose in a regional semifinal that you have a chance to win and it’s disappointing, but our guys handled it. We made it this far, and it’s something to build on for next year.”
“You’ve got to give their pitchers credit,” Leurck said. “They threw two guys at us and they were throwing strikes and giving our guys a tough time, but like we’ve done all year, we’ve done what we’ve needed to do to win.”
Lakota West 000-010-002—3-7-1
WP — Jacob Kates (10-1); LP — Nick Hoffman (1-1). Records: L 24-5, C 17-10