The top-ranked Wildcats took to their home field on Tuesday evening to face the Peebles Indians with the Sectional Finals on the line. A warm day without a cloud in the sky made it an advantageous day for baseball and the Wildcats made quick work of the Indians by a final of 10-0 in just five innings of play.
The first two innings went by in a flash with both starting pitchers at the top of their respective games. The Wildcats sent Evan Brill to the mound and the Indians countered with Stephen Penn.
Brill began the game by setting down the side in order and Penn did the same. Brill took to the mound in the top of the second and set down the first two hitters he faced with ease. After and uncharacteristic error, Brill was able to end the inning on a soft come-backer to the mound to keep the score even.
The Wildcat hitters still found it rough sailing against their opposition in the bottom half of the second. After the first two hitters of the inning were set down on strikes, Trevor Yeager reached via base on balls for the Wildcats first baserunner of the game. However, Penn was able to collect his third strikeout of the frame to strand Yeager at second.
Brill cruised through the top of the third collecting two strikeouts in the frame. In the bottom half of the inning, the Wildcats finally shook the nerves of the opening tournament game in a big way. Coach Veidt said after the game, “We were kind of hyper-aggressive the first few innings. We chased some pitches above the hands and in the second inning we got a little better. And by the third inning, we were back to being us and being choosy and we made him throw 35 pitches in that inning.”
The inning began with Chase Butler reaching via base on balls and swiping second. Ryan Roberts followed with a walk of his own and both runners advanced to second and third on a passed ball by the Indians catcher. With runners in scoring position, leadoff man Traeton Hamilton took advantage of a somewhat rare opportunity for a leadoff man to drive in runs by crushing a double over the left fielder’s head to stake the Wildcats to a 2-0 lead.
The Wildcats weren’t finished in the inning quite yet. After Hamilton swiped third, Chase Carraher was able to plate his partner on a groundout to the second baseman. Penn struggled to find the strike zone by hitting two and walking one of the next three batters he faced. With the bases loaded, the Indians starter seemed to bare down a bit by forcing a groundball to the first baseman which resulted in a fielder’s choice to prevent the run from scoring with the force at home. The Wildcats plated another run in the inning on an error by the Indians shortstop to push their lead to 4-0 headed to the fourth inning.
After a second error of the campaign by the Wildcats, Brill took matters in to his own hands by promptly picking off the runner at first base. Two consecutive groundouts ended the inning and the score remained at 4-0 in favor of the Wildcats headed to the bottom half.
The Wildcats weren’t able to find success at the plate in the bottom half of the fourth with Penn setting down the side in order.
The Indians came to the plate in the top of the fifth hoping to get their offense going. The half inning wasn’t looking promising for the Indians with Brill setting down the first two batters he faced. With two away in the frame, Indians right fielder Kaleb Smith reached on a walk and advanced to second on a passed ball. After Ridge Cluxton reached on an error, the Indians had a prime opportunity to break into the run column. However, Brill displayed resilience by fanning the next batter he faced.
The Wildcats made it clear they were finished messing around in the bottom half of the fifth. After a strikeout to begin the frame, Mason Lehr and Yeager both singled and Casey Nace followed by being hit by a pitch to load the bases. With ducks on the pond, Chase Butler stepped to the plate and delivered a single that drove in two runs to extend the lead to 6-0.
With Nace and Butler in scoring position, nine-hole hitter Ryan Roberts drove them in with a two-run triple to push the lead to 8-0. The lineup turned over with Hamilton plating Roberts on a sacrifice-fly. Carraher followed with a single and proceeded to swipe second. With the winning run in scoring position, Caleb West delivered with an infield single that plated Carraher on a wild throw to first to enforce the ten-run rule.
Evan Brill received the win for the Wildcats, going all five innings, not allowing a run and striking out six. Traeton Hamilton lead the way at the plate, going 1-3 with a double and three runs batted in.
The Wildcats will face the winner of Southern vs. Belpre in the District Semifinals at the Paints Stadium in Chillicothe next Tuesday.
Spencer Michael is a stringer for The Times-Gazette.