BATH TOWNSHIP — Shawnee jumped out early on Lima Central Catholic in Wednesday’s District 5 ACME East Sectional game at Bath.
And in the end, it was Shawnee holding on for the win.
LCC’s seventh-inning rally fell short, as Shawnee slipped out with a hard-fought 10-9 victory. With the win, Shawnee advances to the district tournament at Elida as the No. 2 East seed. Elida came out of the Bath sectional as the No. 1 East seed with its Monday night win against LCC.
Shawnee will play its first game of the double-elimination district tournament Saturday at 12:30 p.m. against West Sectional top seed Crestview at Dick Prince Field. Elida will play in the first game at 10 a.m. against West Sectional No. 2 seed Van Wert, a 3-0 winner Wednesday night against Lincolnview at Crestview.
After getting out to a 5-0 lead in the first inning, Shawnee eventually found itself fighting off an LCC rally down the stretch.
After five innings, Shawnee led 8-1. Heading into the seventh and final inning, Shawnee led 10-5.
In the seventh, LCC scored four runs, but left the bases loaded, as Shawnee’s Johnny Caprella came in from his shortstop position to close the door on an LCC comeback bid.
“You don’t play a lot of games where you think a few runs in the first inning are going to be the ones to win the game,” Shawnee coach Brodey Williams said. “It’s usually not going to happen. They’re going to come back and put a few on the board and put a little pressure on you.”
In the bottom of the first inning, Shawnee scored five runs on four base hits. The big hit for Shawnee was a single by Gavin Wolff (2-for-4) that plated two runs.
LCC got on the scoreboard in the third. Brendan Stolly, who got on with an infield single and then moved over to third on a double by Shaun Thomas, came in to score on a pop-up to shallow right field by Derek Pignataro (2-for-5).
Shawnee put three more runs on the board, in the home half of the fifth, pushing its lead to 8-1. J.T. Thomas (2-for-4) drove in a run with a double. Justin Behnke followed with a single that drove in both Kale Ebling (2-for-5) and Thomas.
However, LCC responded.
In the sixth, LCC scored four runs on just two hits to cut the deficit to 8-5. Derek Jennings started the inning with a double to center.
Shawnee starting pitcher Dalton Miller was pulled in the sixth with one out. Jeff Hunt came over from his first-base position to take over pitching duties.
Miller was tabbed for four runs on six hits, while striking out four, walking one and hitting two batters. He threw 70 pitches.
Hunt worked one inning before giving way to Caprella in the seventh.
Shawnee added two more runs in the bottom of the sixth to push out to a five-run lead.
However, LCC managed to load the bases early in the seventh, putting Shawnee on its heels.
“Dalton (Miller) pitched a great game,” Williams said. “We kept his pitch count low, which allowed him to go into the sixth inning. So, that left him good for Saturday, too. When I brought Jeff (Hunt) in, he came in at a tough spot, with bases loaded and one out.
“It wasn’t my original plan to bring Johnny (Caprella) in from short to pitch. I was going to bring Gavin (Wolff) in from left field. I walked out to the mound and Johnny walked right up to me and said ‘I want to do it’. So, when a guy comes to you and says that, you know he wants the ball in his hand. That’s who you give it to.”
For LCC, Dru Smith started on the hill, working 4 2/3 innings, before being lifted for Derek Jennings. Smith gave up eight runs on 11 hits, while striking out three and walking five. The left-handed Smith threw 102 pitches on the night.
For the game, Shawnee pounded 13 hits. LCC recorded nine hits off Shawnee pitching.
“The offense was great, especially with the two kids they were throwing,” Williams said. “You don’t see a lot of lefties, back-to-back. He (Smith) had a fairly good curveball. You just have to tell the guys to look for the right pitches. And they did. They found gaps and got on.”
Added LCC coach Neil Ribley, “I’m so proud of my kids. They never folded. They could have folded, down 5-1. They could have folded, down 8-1. We didn’t take any effort home with us tonight. We left all of it on the field.”
The Lima News sports department can be reached at 567-242-0468.