Baseball: Hilliard Darby Panthers fall in tight Division I district final

Frank DiRenna
ThisWeek group
Darby players react to their 3-2 loss at Westerville South in a Division I district final May 26. The Panthers won 12 of their final 15 games and finished 23-8. It was their sixth consecutive district final and seventh in the last eight seasons.

The Hilliard Darby baseball team’s pursuit of a sixth Division I district championship ended May 26 with a 3-2 loss at Westerville South in a district final.

The seventh-seeded Panthers, who advanced to a state semifinal in 2019, finished 23-8. 

Darby, which won 12 of its final 15 games, played in its sixth consecutive district final and seventh in the last eight seasons.

“I thought we had the potential to make a long run, but you’re always going to face good teams once you get to this point, and they’re a good team,” coach Mike Weer said. 

Trailing 3-2 in the top of the seventh inning, the Panthers threatened to take the lead after Peyton Fife led off with a double and pinch-runner Travis Yankovich moved to third on a Jake Swartzmiller single. 

South pitcher Logan Hunn then retired the next three batters to preserve the Wildcats’ first district title. 

“For the whole year for the most part, we’ve been carried by our top three guys offensively (Andrew Patrick, Cam Gilkerson and Casey Maruniak) and we just wanted to give them a chance. And we had a chance, and today it just didn’t work out,” Weer said. “I would do the same thing over again.” 

The Panthers took a 2-0 lead in the third on Gilkerson’s RBI single and Alex Chawla’s run-scoring fielder’s choice grounder. 

Fourth-seeded South scored three times in the fourth inning to take the lead. Ryan Phillips had a two-run double and Kaden Saunders drove in the go-ahead run with a single. 

Max Mullen went the first 3 2/3 innings for Darby, allowing five hits while striking out three and walking two. Gilkerson pitched the final 2 1/3 innings, allowing two hits. 

“We just couldn’t do it, but that’s baseball,” said Patrick, who has committed to Wright State. “That’s how it goes. Their pitcher pitched a great game.” 

South improved to 26-3 and advanced to a regional semifinal June 3 at Dublin Coffman.

Darby advanced to the district final with a 2-0 win over 15th-seeded Olentangy in a semifinal May 24 at home. The Braves are coached by Ryan Lucas, a 1999 graduate of Darby.

Maruniak had an RBI single in a two-run first and Patrick pitched six innings, allowing six hits while striking out eight and walking none to earn the win. Gilkerson pitched a scoreless seventh for the save. 

fdirenna@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekFrank