DUBLIN, Ohio – It was a perfect day for baseball at Dublin Coffman High School as the final four Division I teams remaining in central Ohio did battle all afternoon. Spectators that made the trip to Coffman were in for a treat, as both games were instant classics.
Let’s take a look at the action.
No. 1 Olentangy Liberty 3, No. 8 Lancaster 2
Two words: Mitch Okuley. The junior lead off hitter went yard in the bottom of the seventh with one out to lead Olentangy Liberty (27-4) to the regional final, 3-2.
Okuley’s walk off home run repelled a late rally from Lancaster (20-10) which saw the Gales bring home the game-tying run in emphatic fashion just moments prior.
Okuley saved a gem of a pitching performance from senior left hander Mitch Milhelm, an Ohio State signee, who went the distance, throwing a complete game, allowing only two hits while striking out eight batters.
Lancaster struck first in the top of the second, as junior shortstop Tyler Monk, who had a whale of a day on both sides of the ball, drove in a run with a one-out line drive to left field.
The Gales’ bats went quiet for the next four and a third innings before sophomore center fielder and nine hole hitter Max Hamilton drove in Jake Richards to force a 2-2 tie. Lancaster loaded the bases with two outs in the inning, as sophomore right fielder Casey Finck, OCC-Ohio Player of the Year, flew out to end the inning.
Milhelm, an OCC Player of the Year himself in the Buckeye division, led off the bottom of the second.
Facing senior pitcher Anthony Selhorst, who came in to replace starter Garrett Davis on the mound, Milhelm struck out on five pitches.
That momentum was short lived, however. Next up was Okuley, who went yard on the first pitch, launching a deep fly ball to right field that escaped the outstretched arm of Finck, who nearly robbed Okuley’s home run.
The top seed in Division I, Liberty advances to take on New Albany, who also won in a game that went down to literally the final strike.
W: Milhelm, L: Selhorst
No. 6 New Albany 2, No. 9 Olentangy 1
It only takes one. Coming into the top of the seventh, New Albany managed just three hits and not a single run, while striking out 10 times against Olentangy senior southpaw Nick Foy. Facing a 1-0 deficit, momentum was not on New Albany’s side.
That didn’t matter, however, as this New Albany team refuses to quit.
In a half inning sparked by a double from senior Jake Arenschield, New Albany had new life with runners on second and third with two outs.
Sophomore left fielder Spencer Tammaro came to the plate, facing Foy, who struck him out in his first at-bat of the night. Facing an 0-2 count after fighting off a fast ball seconds prior, Tammaro took an outside heater the opposite way, launching a two-RBI line drive into left field to give New Albany its first and only lead of the night.
With Ohio State commit and top junior Caden Kaiser awaiting in the bottom of the seventh, New Albany went to senior Alex Arenschield to close out the regional semifinal. Arenschield, who followed up his brother’s double with a single moments later in the prior half inning, started off hot on the mound.
Striking out Braydon Chitty in the opening at-bat of the inning, Arenschield now faced Kaiser, who drove in Olentangy’s only run of the game in the second inning.
Kaiser, who is one of the toughest outs in the area, battled against Arenschield, however a hard hit line drive off the bat of Kaiser found itself in the glove of Austin Eardley. With two outs and the game on the line, Olentangy could not exact revenge against New Albany, as Cole Robinson grounded out to second to end the game.
In a pitching matchup that was worth the seven dollar price of admission, New Albany sophomore Jack Sokol registered the win, despite never throwing with a lead at any point in the game. Sokol, who improved to an insane 9-0 on the season, threw six strong innings, allowing just one run on nine hits.
Olentangy left seven runners on base, as New Albany consistently found ways to get out of jams with its defensive prowess. The play of catcher Ethan Swincicki was key, as the righty caught two runners stealing and was a wall behind the plate.
For the Braves, the senior pitcher Foy earned the loss, despite a truly dominant performance. Setting down 11 New Albany hitters by way of strikeouts, Foy was lights out until the fateful seventh inning, in which he allowed three of his six hits and both runs to Tammaro.
New Albany, which has won its last three tournament games by three combined runs, will look to strike lightning in a bottle once again. The top-seeded juggernaut in Olentangy Liberty awaits, as New Albany will need to continue its lights out pitching and timely defense to deliver another upset.
W: Sokol, L: Foy, S: A. Arenschield