Shaking off any hype about the pitcher it faced in a Division I regional semifinal May 30, the Upper Arlington High School baseball team did something no team had yet to do.
As a result, the Golden Bears are one win from reaching their first state tournament in 29 years.
Sammy Sass went 4-for-4 to lead a nine-hit onslaught against New Albany standout pitcher Jack Sokol as UA upset the Eagles 5-2 at Dublin Coffman.
UA improved to 21-9 and will try for its first regional title since 1990 when it plays Hilliard Darby in the regional final May 31 at Coffman. New Albany, which was ranked fourth in the final state poll, finished 27-2.
“I just personally wanted to focus on my swing and not worry about what the pitcher has or is going to do,” said Sass, a catcher and Wright State recruit. “I hit his curveball and fastball. I just saw the ball well and we got a lot of guys on base.”
Tommy Dilz and Ben Krimm each added two hits for UA, and Charlie Fleming pitched a complete game, overcoming tightness in his back in the latter innings to allow four hits and strike out seven.
Krimm’s RBI single and a fielder’s choice RBI staked the Bears to a 2-0 lead in the third inning. Two errors and an RBI double by Sass made it 4-0 in the fourth, and Sass added another RBI double in the sixth.
New Albany scored in the fourth on Jimmy Stevens’ RBI, ground-rule double and again in the seventh with the help of two errors.
“I really utilized my curveball,” Fleming said. “I was able to get some pitches off the plate and make them chase.”
Sokol was 8-0 entering the game and 18-0 over the last two seasons, according to Eagles coach Dave Starling. He allowed seven hits and two walks in four innings, striking out five.
“We were locked up and off balance (at the plate),” Starling said. “People haven’t scored off Jack like that all year. We have to tip our hats to them.”
Hilliard Darby 5, Lancaster 3
Seth Schmidt pitched a complete game, scattering four hits and striking out nine, to lead Darby past Lancaster in a Division I regional semifinal May 30 at Coffman.
The Panthers improved to 22-8 and will play UA in the regional final May 31 at Coffman. The Golden Gales finished 26-4.
About an hour before the game, Darby coach Mike Weer learned that his expected starting pitcher, Connor Maruniak, had a fever and was unable to play.
“Seth is a senior who hasn’t gotten much work in the (postseason), but had made 11 starts this year, mostly in our league games,” Weer said. “(Sophomore) Andrew Patrick was another option (to pitch), but that changes some things defensively, and with Seth being a senior, we gave him the ball.
“He pitched very well. I wouldn’t say I’m surprised because he keeps himself ready and he was excited to get out there. … We don’t have overpowering pitchers, but they throw strikes and let the defense play behind them.”
Schmidt took a 1-0 lead to the mound in the bottom of the first inning after Patrick singled, stole second base and scored on Paxton Schwandt’s double down the right-field line, but Lancaster scored twice on a double by Casey Finck and Wes Ward’s two-run home run to left field.
“That’s the longest ball I’ve had hit against me. It was a bomb and just kept going over the trees out there,” Schmidt said. “But we tied it up in our next at-bat and I settled down after that. I was throwing strikes, but not center-cut like that (home-run pitch) was.”
Schmidt allowed two hits the rest of the game, retiring 13 of 14 batters in one stretch.
Drew Snyder had a leadoff walk in the second for Darby and scored on Ryan Eatherton’s two-out single. Schwandt scored in the fifth on a Mason Bowers single and an error to give the Panthers a 3-2 lead, and Darby extended its lead to 5-2 in the top of the sixth on Grant Hollinger’s RBI single and a squeeze bunt by Eatherton.
In the bottom of the sixth, Lancaster had two runners on and no outs, but Schmidt got a strikeout and fly out before an error allowed the Golden Gales to score to make it 5-3.
“Their pitcher was tough and kept us off balance and really hit his spots and mixed his locations,” Lancaster coach Corey Conn said. “You have to give him credit, because after the first inning, we rarely hit him.”