Somehow, the second-seeded Hilliard Darby High School baseball team found a way to pull out an 11-10 win over sixth-seeded Pickerington Central in a Division I district championship game May 17 at Grove City.

Darby scored four runs in the bottom of the seventh inning. The Panthers improved to 26-3 and advanced to play Olentangy Orange in a regional semifinal May 25 at Dublin Coffman.

The Panthers led 5-3 after five innings, but the Tigers pounded out seven hits and scored six runs in the top of the sixth to take a 9-5 lead. Central’s big inning was aided by an error.

“I just reinforced to the boys that it’s baseball and we never give up,” said Darby coach Chris Fugitt, whose team had lost in a district final each of the past two seasons. “We got two back in the bottom of the sixth and felt better about ourselves, but (Central) tacked on another in the seventh (to take a 10-7 lead). It was just a wild, wild ending. I’ve never been part of such a crazy game at this level of the tournament.”

With one out in the bottom of the seventh, Tyler Chumita singled and Justin Fugitt and Cory Brooks both drew walks to load the bases before Central brought starting pitcher Jacob Lott back into the game. Lott, who had allowed five runs in four innings before the Tigers used three relievers, allowed a two-run double by Brice Stultz.

Clay Strausbaugh followed with a sacrifice fly and Brooks barely beat the throw to score the tying run, as the Panthers avoided a game-ending double play.

Ben Gbur then hit a sharp line drive to Central second baseman Matt Walters, who leaped to snag the ball, only to have it fall out of his glove. Walters picked up the ball and threw home late, as Stultz scored from second base to end the game.

“The walks hurt us, but give Darby credit,” said Central coach Ray Noe, whose team finished 19-11. “There’s a reason they’re 26-3. They got clutch hits with their backs against the wall. It’s devastating, but I couldn’t be prouder of my guys for their effort and the way they battled all game and all season.”

Olentangy Orange 1, Thomas Worthington 0

Matt Poole tossed a four-hitter and scored the game’s only run to lead the 11th-seeded Pioneers past the fourth-seeded Cardinals in a Division I district final May 17 at Upper Arlington for their first district title since 2012.

Orange improved to 20-8 and will play Darby in a regional semifinal May 25 at Coffman, while Thomas finished 19-5.

The Pioneers scored with two outs in the sixth inning, as Poole singled and moved to second on a wild pitch. Zach Stiteler followed with a slow roller between first and second base. Thomas second baseman Vincent Armstrong slid to grab the ball and keep it just beyond the edge of the infield, but Poole never broke stride and beat the throw to the plate.

“I never saw the ball, but (third base) coach (Matt) Lattig was telling me to go,” Poole said. “It’s unbelievable that we finally got this (district title).”

Poole was in control throughout the game, retiring 12 consecutive batters before Joey Pischel singled for the Cardinals with two outs in the sixth. Armstrong followed with a single to put runners at the corners, but Trent Castle popped out to Orange first baseman Jason Schutte in foul territory to end the inning.

Spencer Kiehl gave up one run on five hits and three walks in six innings for the Cardinals.

Castle and Nick Kendig also singled for Thomas.

“In district semifinals and finals, the team that scores first usually has the advantage,” Thomas coach Chris Olson said. “It’s the nature of the beast. You have to be the team that does everything right because both teams are fighting to stay alive. (Orange) just did a few more things right.”

—Scott Hennen

Division II

Jonathan Alder 7, Watterson 6

The sixth-seeded Eagles came up short of winning their third consecutive district title, falling to the top-seeded Pioneers in a Division II district final May 17 at Ohio Dominican University.

Jonathan Alder, which improved to 20-3, got four consecutive singles in the bottom of the seventh inning, including the walkoff hit by Cal Duckworth.

The Pioneers took a 5-0 lead in the first inning.

Watterson, which finished 17-8, countered with five runs in the top of the second and took a 6-5 lead in the fourth when Nate Meyer tripled and scored on a fielder’s choice.

The Pioneers tied the game at 6 in the sixth when Austin Hurley doubled, moved to third on a single by Tyler Hilbert and scored on a passed ball.

The Eagles threatened to score in the top of the seventh, as Connor Hoyng walked, moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Adam Fallon and advanced to third on a passed ball. However, Jonathan Alder pitcher Logan Smith got Meyer to ground out to third base to end the threat.

—Jarrod Ulrey

Division IV

Danville 8, Tree of Life 1

The seventh-seeded Trojans’ postseason run came to an end against the third-seeded Blue Devils in a Division IV district final May 17 at Ohio Wesleyan.

Tree of Life, which finished 18-8, was making just its second district final appearance. The first came in 2012, when the Trojans lost to Newark Catholic 6-1.

Tree of Life jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the first inning when Connor Nowe reached on a fielding error and later scored on a throwing error, but Danville responded with three runs in the bottom of the first and added three in fourth, one in the fifth and one in the sixth.

Tree of Life starting pitcher Kaleb Thompson went 5 1/3 innings, allowing 10 hits and two walks while striking out three.

The Trojans managed just three hits off Danville starter Skyler Durbin, who went 5 1/3 innings, and reliever Dylan James, who pitched the final 1 2/3 innings.

“We’re a year or two ahead of where I expected us to be,” Tree of Life coach Matt Shonkwiler said. “We played really good baseball throughout the year and we peaked at the right time. We had a whole lot of energy and we just couldn’t quite get that same level of energy today. I’m very proud of them.”

—Frank DiRenna

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