BLUFFTON — With Shawnee and Tiffin Columbian going into their Division II baseball district championship game on Saturday with similar records, expecting a close game might have seemed like a reasonable thing to do.
But the Tornadoes rewrote that script early on their way to a 9-1 win over the Indians at Bluffton University’s Memorial Field.
Columbian scored two runs in the top of the first, then added three more in the third inning and held Shawnee scoreless until it got its only run in the bottom of the seventh inning.
“We didn’t catch it and throw it real well today, especially early,” Shawnee coach Chad Spencer said.
“We gave them a lot of opportunities with a lot of guys on base. They had a couple of key clutch hits early. And by the third (inning) it just kind of got away from us. Their kids made two or three really nice plays early defensively that kind of took us out of opportunities and it just kind of snowballed from there,” he said.
The top of Columbian’s batting order produced many of those opportunities. The first three hitters in its lineup — Gunther Kissell, Brayden Tucker and Carson Mellott — were on base 12 times and scored five runs.
Columbian jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first inning when it loaded the bases on an infield single, a walk and a hit by pitch, then scored on a ground out and a sacrifice fly.
Shawnee sent five batters to the plate in its half of the first inning and all of them hit the ball solidly. But the Indians had nothing to show for it on the scoreboard.
Logan Maxwell was safe on an error on a hard-hit grounder, but was picked off. Peyton Meredith and Jarin Bertke singled, but Columbian’s pitcher, Mellott, retired Sage Ebling and Luke Cowan on fly balls to end the threat.
Columbian scored its three runs in the third inning on only two hits. It loaded the bases on a single and two walks before Jaden Myers delivered a three-run double for a 5-0 lead.
The Tornadoes added a run in the sixth inning and three more in the fifth inning.
Shawnee got its only run in the bottom of the seventh inning when Anthony Best was hit by a pitch, Maxwell walked, Bertke was hit by a pitch and Sage Ebling reached base on an error.
Caden Vermillion pitched the first 3 1/3 innings for the Indians. Maxwell came in during the fourth inning and was relieved by Cowan at the beginning of the sixth inning. Mellott got the win for Columbian and Tucker pitched the final two innings.
Shawnee finished its season 21-8. Columbian (23-7) will play the winner of today’s Vermilion-Bellevue game on Thursday in a regional semifinal game at Bowling Green. The Vermilion-Bellevue game was postponed on Saturday.
Summing up the season, Spencer said, “I think this team got out of it what they could. You kind of wonder if you get better as the season goes by. That’s always a goal. I kind of felt like we were where we needed to be if we’d just play well and execute.
“I think it was a quality season. We had some outstanding individual performances and the kids played well together. I’m really proud of them,” he said.