LANCASTER — Connor Maruniak allowed two runs and four hits in 5 1/3 innings and the Hilliard Darby High School baseball team backed him both offensively and defensively, as the sixth-seeded Panthers defeated third-seeded Olentangy Orange 5-2 in a Division I district final May 23 at Beavers Field for their fifth district championship.
Darby improved to 22-7 and advanced to play Lancaster in a regional semifinal May 30 at Dublin Coffman, while Orange finished 22-8.
“We’re on top of the world right now,” said Panthers left fielder Mason Bowers, who went 2-for-4 with an RBI and run scored and made two key plays in the field. “We maintained our composure and got through some tough spots, so this is an incredible feeling.”
Darby scored three runs in the top of the first inning on RBI singles by Bowers and Drew Snyder and a steal of home by Bowers on the back end of a double steal. The Panthers took advantage of four wild pitches and a passed ball in the inning.
The score held up until the sixth, as Darby turned a ground-ball double play in the second and Bowers made a diving catch in the fourth on a two-out line drive with runners on first and third.
Maruniak allowed only two hits until the sixth when Orange’s Caden Conszak and Braden Riley opened the inning with singles. Seth Schmidt relieved Maruniak and retired the next two batters before Zane Lattig supplied an RBI single.
Matthew Wolfe then singled to score Riley before Lattig tried to score the tying run but was thrown out at the plate on a relay from Bowers to shortstop Paxton Schwandt to catcher Ryan Eatherton.
“We did what we do: throw strikes and let the defense make plays,” Darby coach Mike Weer said. “We made several big plays defensively, with Mason’s diving catch, the relay to the plate and Kyle Miller made at least four nice plays at third base.”
Darby added two runs in the seventh, with Bowers leading off with a single, stealing second base and scoring on a one-out single by Snyder, who went 2-for-4 with two RBI. The last run scored on Orange’s only error of the game.
“(Darby) played great defense, threw strikes and took extra bases and we didn’t get that done tonight,” Orange coach Thomas Marker said. “We gave up too many free passes and just fell behind early. We battled back, but it wasn’t enough, unfortunately.”
Wolfe went 2-for-4 for Orange, which was outhit 9-6.
Lancaster 1, Hilliard Bradley 0
Casey Finck drove in the only run with a two-out single in the fifth inning to lead the second-seeded Golden Gales past the 11th-seeded Jaguars in a Division I district final May 23 at Hamilton Township.
Lancaster improved to 26-3, winning their second consecutive district title, and advanced to play Darby in a regional semifinal May 30 at Coffman. Bradley finished 17-13.
“Casey has come up big for us so many times and he came through again with an absolute clutch hit,” Lancaster coach Cory Conn said of Finck, a two-time OCC-Ohio Division Player of the Year honoree. “It’s a testament to the last two senior classes and the culture that they have established.”
The Gales strung together four of their five hits off Jaguars pitcher Caleb Jenkins, who also allowed three walks while striking out five.
“The difference in the game was they strung together their hits and we didn’t,” Bradley coach Nate Hillery said. “They have experience and they have been here before. It was just a great baseball game.”
The Jaguars managed just two hits off Lancaster pitcher Garrick Davis, who struck out one and walked three. Luke Barren and Dillon Ysseldyke both had singles for Bradley.
—Scott HennenDivision II
Granville 7, Watterson 4
The third-seeded Eagles appeared to be on their way to winning a Division II district title May 23 at Gahanna before stumbling in the final inning.
Watterson held a two-run lead in the district final before ninth-seeded Granville scored six times in the top of the seventh.
The Blue Aces improved to 18-11 and advanced to a regional semifinal May 30 at Mason, while Watterson finished 21-7 in coach Scott Manahan’s final season.
“I love these guys, and they work exceptionally hard,” said Manahan, who is retiring with more than 600 victories. “My coaching staff is unbelievable. … We didn’t quit the whole game.”
Watterson led 3-1 heading into the top of the seventh when Hayden Welles was hit by a pitch, moved to second on a single by John Bernauer and both runners scored on a double by Jake Stone off of reliever Stephen Garrett.
A three-run triple by Trevor Crumley gave Granville a 6-3 lead.
In the bottom of the seventh, Drake McAninch and Ryan Roark opened with singles and Noah Grayem grounded into a fielder’s choice that scored McAnich, but that was all the Eagles would get.
Noah Truax went 1-for-2 with two RBI and started on the mound for Watterson, allowing just one unearned run on two hits in five innings. Roark went 2-for-3 for the Eagles, who are a district runner-up for the third consecutive season.