By Rob Kiser
PLEASANT HILL — Two days earlier, the Lehman baseball team was staring at a 6-1 deficit in the sixth inning of a sectional final with Russia.
Friday night, Lehman was celebrating a Division IV district championship and return to the regional tournament at Springfield next week after an 8-2 victory over Tri-Village at Newton High School.
Lehman (22-4) will play Reedsville Eastern (17-9) in a D-IV regional semifinal at 2 p.m. Thursday at Carlton Davidson Stadium.
“There were moments the other day when I thought we were going home,” Lehman catcher Max Schutt said. “This is pretty crazy.”
And again, it was a big sixth inning that swung the game for Lehman.
Tied 2-2 going to the sixth inning, the Cavaliers took advantage of five walks and a hit batter to score six runs to seal the victory.
“We took advantage of it,” Lehman coach Dave King said. “But we still made it happen. It is a tough situation (pitching in the rain). I feel bad for coach (Jim) Maples and Tri-Village. But both teams had to play in it. We have certainly played in worse.”
After Stephen Monnin walked, Owen Smith was hit by a pitch and Tyler Lachey walked to load the bases.
Brandon Barhorst, Nate Bosway had bases-loaded walks to make it 4-2. Lachey scored on a wild pitch before Parker Riley walked to load the bases.
Schutt followed with a two-run single and Dylan Arnold added a RBI double to make it 8-2.
“I was just looking to score as many runs as possible,” Schutt said. “For sure, the sixth inning is our big inning. But the next couple games, I think we need to start a little earlier.”
Riley, who entered in the fifth inning after pitching four and a third innings Wednesday, got three quick outs in the seventh in the rain to end it.
“I was just looking to throw strikes,” Riley said. “It is great when you know you have a great defense behind you.”
It ended Tri-Village’s season at 15-13.
“I am really proud of these guys,” Tri-Village coach Jim Maples said. “We lose two guys — Jordan Buckley who is a good friend of my sons and Tanner (Maples). Tanner tied his brother Ryan for most hits so there are two Maples at the top of the record book. I have put one of my sons names in the lineup the last eight years. That is going to be tough (to not be doing that).”
The game started with Stephen Monnin on the mound for Tri-Village and Christian Ricker throwing for Tri-Village. Patriots ace Jonny Wilson had thrown seven innings Wednesday.
“I haven’t pitched in a lot of big games,” Monnin said. “I just wanted to try and keep us in the game.”
He did a lot more than that — he pitched into the fifth inning and allowed just two hits.
“What a job Stephen (Monnin) did,” King said. “He’s a center fielder who pitched. But he is our quarterback and point guard in basketball — he is just a competitor.”
Lehman had taken a 2-0 lead in the third.
Barhorst had singled and Bosway walked. With one out, Schutt’s grounder scored Barhorst and a throwing error allowed Bosway to score.
Tri-Village would tied the game in the fifth.
After a walk by Monnin, Riley entered the game. Jordan Buckley had a double to put runners on second and third and Wilson had a two-run single with two outs to tie it.
“The thing I am upset about is I wasn’t able to get the win for Stephen (Monnin),” Riley said. “He deserved it. But he is a team player, so I am sure he will be happy.”
Maples then brought his ace in — with Wilson having three innings available.
“He went with his ace and we went with Parker (Riley) who has had an outstanding season,” King said. “He is 12-0 now.”
But Wilson couldn’t find the plate in the sixth and Lehman was able to secure the win.
“Give Lehman credit,” Maples said. “They are the fourth-ranked team in the state. Jonny’s (Wilson) control has been spot on all year. He wasn’t that far off. There were a couple 3-2 pitches, where had we gotten a break, it could have been different. Christian (Ricker) did a great job.
“Jonny came in and had that eight-pitch inning in the fifth. We went toe-to-toe with them for five innings.”
But Lehman has now scored 11 runs in the sixth inning in its last two games.
“I think we need to get started a little earlier in the next couple games,” Schutt said.
And the Cavaliers have a week to work on that.
Rob Kiser can be reached at (937) 451-3334.