PAULDING — Go all in for the Northwest Conference title or pull back its pitching for Friday’s sectional tournament game.
Paulding’s seniors reached this crossroad decision in the fourth inning.
They chose go for the NWC title.
Paulding decided to ride out starter left-hander Westen Phlipot as far as he could go and the Panthers posted a 6-4 victory over Lincolnview to capture the NWC baseball championship Tuesday at Paulding.
It marks Paulding’s 15th NWC baseball title, second only in the NWC to Crestview’s 23.
“This is great, awesome, surreal,” Phlipot said.
The Panthers are 13-7 and finish 8-0 in the NWC. Lincolnview is 20-3 and end the NWC at 7-1.
Prior to the game Paulding coach Travis McGarvey said the game plan was to use starter Phlipot for just under 75 pitches, then pull him so that he could come back to start Friday’s tournament game against the Bath/Ottawa-Glandorf winner.
If Phlipot stayed under 75 pitches, he could take two days off and be eligible to pitch Friday in the sectional.
That all changed in the fourth inning.
Paulding led 5-2 in the top of the fourth. Lincolnview had a runner at first and one out.
And Phlipot was sitting on 73 pitches.
Out came McGarvey to the mound.
He chatted with Phlipot and the other two senior infielders.
“I took a mound visit and he was at 73 (pitches),” McGarvey said. “I brought my third baseman (Jaret Miller), my shortstop (Carson Shull), my two seniors and Wes is a senior and I asked them, ‘What do you want to do?’ Their feeling was, ‘We want this game right now.’ That’s what they told me. And I have a ton of confidence in Kolson (Egnor) to go Friday.’’
McGarvey added that being up 5-2 at the time played a part in sticking with Phlipot.
“If we’re down, he’s coming out,” McGarvey said. “But the boys wanted to go for it and we went for it.
“And Wes is a battler. He’s a crafty lefty. He’s not going to overpower you, but he’s going to make good pitches.’’
Added Phlipot, “He brought our seniors in (on the mound) and said you are 73 pitches and if you pitch to this batter you can’t pitch Friday. And all of us seniors voted. We all voted for the Northwest Conference (championship). I wanted this pretty bad.’’
Phlipot ended up going 5 2/3 innings before reaching his 125-pitch limit for the day.
He gave up four runs, three earned, on seven hits. He struck out eight and walked four.
“He did a good job and was able to keep us off balance,” Lincolnview coach Eric Fishpaw said.
Phlipot used his fastball, breaking ball and sidearm slider for his 125 pitches, 74 of which were strikes.
Kolson Egnor tossed the final 1 1/3 scoreless innings for the save. He gave up two hits, walked two and struck out one.
In the seventh, the Lancers’ Braxton Fox walked, Collin Overholt singled and Jaden Youtsey walked.
But with two outs and the bags loaded, Egnor got Creed Jessee to fly out to center to end it.
Gavin Carter started for the Lancers, but lasted only 1 1/3 innings, giving up four runs, three earned, on two hits. He walked three and hit one batter.
On came Overholt, who went the final 4 2/3 innings, giving up two runs, both earned, only three hits. He struck out seven and walked one.
“I had a gut feeling,” Fishpaw said of the pitching change. “You can’t always have your best stuff and we have a deep pitching staff.’’
The Lancers scored two in the top of the first.
Overholt reached on an infield error and Youtsey pounded a two-run home run off a 3-1 pitch well over the left-center field fence.
That gave the Lancers a quick 2-0 lead.
Youtsey went 3 for 4 with three RBI on the day.
Paulding came back with three in the home first.
Carter didn’t have his command early, as he walked two and hit a batter in the first.
Including a Lincolnview error, Paulding pushed across three runs on only one hit.
The Panthers made it 5-2 in the second when Jaret Miller lined a two-run single to right.
The Lancers added a run in the fourth and another in the sixth to get within 5-4.
Paulding got a big run in the home sixth when Blake McGarvey walked, was bunted to second by Egnor and came home on an RBI single to right by Payton Beckman.
That gave the Panthers a 6-4 lead.
For the Lancers, Ethan Kemler went 2 for 4 with an RBI.
Now both teams point toward the tournament.
“Our goal now is the district championship,” Fishpaw said.
Reach The Lima News sports department at 567-242-0468.