C.J. Stablein knew what he was supposed to do as he bolted from second base on a slow groundball to third off the bat of Paul Trick.
The sophomore outfielder for the Olentangy Orange High School baseball team barreled around third as the Watkins Memorial infielder fielded the ball and threw, trying to beat Trick to first to end the fourth inning. Instead, Trick was safe and Stablein raced home with the decisive run in a 3-2 road victory May 8 to capture the OCC-Capital Division championship.
The Pioneers won the program's first OCC-Capital title at 12-2 after beating the Warriors (11-3) in back-to-back games. They also defeated Watkins Memorial 5-2 on May 6.
"(Getting the signal from the third-base coach to go home) really wasn't a surprise," Stablein said. "We wanted to be aggressive out there. I had to be ready to run."
"That's a play we practice all the time," said coach Phil Callaghan, whose team was 22-3 overall before playing Worthington Kilbourne on May 15 in the second round of the Division I district tournament. "As soon as we saw the slow roller, we were going for it when (the infielder) went to throw the ball."
Rounding out the league standings after Orange and Watkins Memorial were Olentangy (10-4), Big Walnut (7-7), New Albany (6-8), Mount Vernon (6-8), Delaware (4-10) and Franklin Heights (0-14).
Orange finished second in the OCC-Capital the past two seasons. It won its first district title last season by defeating Pickerington Central 3-1, then defeated Thomas Worthington 7-6 in a Division I regional semifinal before falling to Grove City 7-4 in a regional final.
"I asked (the players) before (playing Watkins Memorial on May 6) if they were mentally tough enough to win an OCC title," Calla-ghan said. "They showed me that they were, and it wasn't an easy road."
The Pioneers had to beat two of the area's top pitchers in sophomore Chandler Day and senior Danny Sexton, a Valparaiso University signee. They defeated Day in the first meeting against Watkins Memorial and used three unearned runs to beat Sexton for the league title.
Sophomore shortstop Brandon Voytus scored the second run May 8 when Watkins Memorial catcher Derek Helbing threw the ball away trying to pick off Voytus at third with two out in the second inning.
Trick, a senior, pitched a six-hitter, striking out three and walking two.
"I had to be ready for a pressure situation, but I pitched in the regional semifinal last year, so that was good (preparation for this)," Trick said.
"My fastball started to work after I got my changeup (to work in the fourth inning). I settled in after that."
Trick also had two singles, and sophomore infielder Tyler Johnson had an RBI single in the first. Junior third baseman Cody McCague and junior catcher Alec McCurry also had one hit.
Orange, the second seed, had a first-round bye before playing 36th-seeded Kilbourne. The winner advanced to play 11th-seeded Dresden Tri-Valley or 17th-seeded Zanesville in a district semifinal Monday, May 20, at New Albany.
The Pioneers did not play Zanesville or Tri-Valley during the regular season.
The semifinal winner plays in a district final Wednesday, May 22, at Ohio Dominican University against sixth-seeded Gahanna, 15th-seeded Westerville South, 26th-seeded Upper Arlington or 41st-seeded Westland.
Orange defeated Gahanna 8-0 on April 2 and beat Westerville South 8-2 on April 6, but lost to UA 8-1 on May 4.
The district champion advances to a regional semifinal May 30 at Dublin Coffman.
Patriots finish 2nd in OCC-Central
Liberty tied Marysville for second (9-5) in the OCC-Central behind Thomas Worthington (11-3) and ahead of Coffman (8-6), Upper Arlington (8-6), Hilliard Davidson (6-8), Central Crossing (5-9) and Westland (0-14).
The Patriots entered the final week of the regular season tied for first with Thomas, but lost to the Cardinals 3-2 on May 6 and 7-3 on May 8.
Liberty fell to 18-9 overall with a 4-3 loss to Dublin Jerome on May 13. The eighth-seeded Patriots had a first-round bye in the Division I district tournament and played 25th-seeded New Albany in the second round May 15.
The winner plays third-seeded Watkins Memorial or 40th-seeded Logan in a district semifinal Tuesday, May 21, at Pickerington North.
The district final will be May 23 at Ohio Dominican against 10th-seeded St. Charles, 14th-seeded Marysville, 19th-seeded Westerville Central or 20th-seeded Westerville North.
The winner will play in a regional semifinal May 30 at Coffman.
Braves enter tourney on winning streak
Fifth-seeded Olentangy was 22-5 overall and had won six consecutive games before playing 29th-seeded Coffman on May 15 in a second-round Division I district tournament game.
The winner plays seventh-seeded Grove City or 31st-seeded Teays Valley in a district semifinal Tuesday, May 21, at Hilliard Darby.
The district final will be May 23 at Otterbein against fourth-seeded Thomas Worthington, ninth-seeded Jerome, 24th-seeded Whetstone or 38th-seeded Columbus West.
The winner advances to a regional semifinal May 30 at Coffman.