Baseball: New Albany edges Olentangy Orange for Division I regional championship

Scott Hennen
ThisWeek group
New Albany celebrates its 3-1 win over Olentangy Orange in a Division I regional final Saturday at Dublin Coffman.

Ian Hoff had one job when he stepped to the plate in the bottom of the sixth inning for the New Albany baseball team in its Division I regional final against Olentangy Orange on June 5 at Dublin Coffman.

With the Eagles leading by a run, Hoff was to put down a sacrifice bunt to move teammate Oliver Cush to second and into scoring position for a potential insurance run. That directive went away when Hoff had two strikes, but the senior then drove a 3-2 fastball to right field. The ball rolled to the fence, and Cush scored to give New Albany its 3-1 margin of victory.

The Eagles improved to 27-5 and won their first regional championship since 2004, when they went on to win the Division III state title. Orange finished 27-4.

“I was just looking to hit anything close, put it in play and move the runner over,” Hoff said. “Originally I was supposed to lay down a bunt, and I didn’t get the job done. I knew I had to move that guy over or I would be in trouble. It was crazy, and a great feeling.”

New Albany coach Dave Starling just wanted his team to have a better cushion entering the seventh.

“I really wanted to get a two-run lead and whatever it took to manufacture that, we had to do,” he said. “Ian’s a good bunter, and it’s tough to decide whether to take the bat out of his hands but things worked out pretty well.”

The Eagles will play Cuyahoga Falls Walsh Jesuit in a state semifinal June 11 at Canal Park in Akron.

New Albany had the Pioneers playing catch-up most of the game. The Eagles took a 1-0 lead in the second as Cush collected the first of his two singles, Hoff sacrificed him to second and Ben Clark drove him home with a single.

The Pioneers answered when Caden Konczak singled home Connor Till in the top of the third to tie the game at 1.

New Albany went ahead for good in the fifth. Pinch-hitter Caden Robinson singled and stole second, and Andrew Ecleberry drove him home with a one-out single.

“It’s a crazy feeling,” Hoff said. “We all came together as a team and got the job done.”

New Albany starting pitcher Elijah Griffith, who started the season on the j.v. roster, allowed four hits while striking out two and walking one in four-plus innings. After he walked Till to lead off the fifth, Brady Conley entered in relief.

Conley induced Orange’s Matt Wolfe to pop out to the second baseman with Till at second, ending what would be the Pioneers’ final scoring threat.

“Their (starting) pitcher threw strikes and commanded the zone, and then they brought the Conley kid in and he did the same,” Orange coach Tom Marker said. “I think any time that you can command pitches like that, it will make it a tough go of it offensively.”

Conley struck out one, gave up one hit and hit a batter in three innings.

Orange’s Cole Cahill pitched six innings, surrendering six hits while striking out eight and walking one.

shennen@thisweeknews.com

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