That is all Lima Central Catholic could muster against St. Henry’s Ryan Uhlenhake who shut down the T-Birds to propel the Redskins to a 4-0 win and a Division IV sectional title Thursday.
Uhlenhake, with an above average fastball and locating his breaking ball, fanned 15 and walked three in his seven innings of work. In four of those innings, the Redskin righty struck out the side and in the final three innings he sat the LCC batters down in order.
St. Henry advances to the districts and will face New Bremen in a 7 p.m. Wednesday game at Coldwater.
“We knew coming in we were up against a pretty stiff challenge,” LCC head coach John Schneiders said. “He (Uhlenhake) was on point. He threw a lot of strikes and whenever he needed a pitch he came up with a pitch and usually that pitch was a fastball and that just beat us so hats off to him for bringing his A-game today.
“We certainly did not do a good job of adjusting with two strikes and we were just a little overwhelmed with his velocity.”
The Thunderbirds’ lone hit was a triple by lead-off hitter Conner Gephart in the first inning that was followed by a base on balls to Quintel Peoples but Uhlenhake struck out the next three T-Birds.
Both coaches agreed this early series of events was pivotal in setting the tone of the game because St. Henry had grabbed a 1-0 lead in the top half of the inning and it prevented LCC from gaining any type of momentum.
“Ryan recovered really well after that (hit) and he handled the early adversity and got out of that one and that was huge,” St. Henry head coach Mike Gast said. “It kept a zero on the scoreboard and we got a couple or runs early. That was big.
“Early in the season he had struggled with command but the last few weeks he has been really, really good and he is just fun to watch. The last few weeks he has been working ahead a lot better and getting strikes and he is getting his breaking stuff over for strikes which makes it tough for a hitter. He is awesome and the work ethic he has is something I have never seen and he deserves all the credit in the world.”
Schneiders added, “I really feel like the first inning was the key. After they got one and then we got runners on second and third and no outs and didn’t score. That has been our m.o. all year. We just could not get that hit with runners in scoring positions and when they got out of it and the way he got out of it by striking out three straight guys, that was the fuel he needed to lock in and go the rest of the way.”
Clutch hitting was instrumental in St. Henry scoring runs throughout the game as the Redskins came up with runs in the second and the fifth inning with two-out hits.
St. Henry’s Shane Frank was 2 for 3 with a run scored and an RBI and Uhlenhake was 2 for 4 with a triple, two runs and an RBI.
“It was huge for us to get on the board early,” Gast said. “Hopefully it doesn’t take two or three runs for us to be pretty comfortable with him on the mound so it was absolutely huge to start the way we did.”
LCC’s Billy Bourk took the loss after going six innings, scattering nine runs and walking two.
“I give our guys a lot of credit,” Schneiders said. “From day one to this game we have made tremendous progress and came up with a winning season. Fifteen wins is not an easy thing to do and the bottom line is this is a really tough district with a lot of studs, and we came up against one today and a good team behind him. He was better than us, and they were better than us today.
“I can’t say enough good things about Billy Bourk and how mature he is for a freshman and how he performed today. He’s got a bright future in our program. We are excited about what is coming back. We have four great seniors that are graduating that we are really going to miss but I told the guys it really sucks to lose your last game but every team but one has this feeling. I am proud of our team and the individuals and proud of the group as a whole going to work in the summer and taking that next step.”
Reach Jose Nogueras at 567-242-0468.