CHILLICOTHE, Ohio — Back to the round of 32.
The Southern baseball team is headed to the district championship game for the first time since 2013, as the second-seeded Tornadoes topped No. 3 seed Franklin Furnace Green by a 10-0 count in five innings in the Division IV district semifinal on Tuesday at VA Memorial Stadium in Ross County.
The Purple and Gold (17-7) — winner of four straight decisions — took a 2-0 lead with one out in the opening inning, as Gage Shuler and Noah Diddle scored on a Bobcats (22-4) error.
Southern began adding on with no outs in the following inning, as Logan Drummer singled home Ryan Laudermilt. With one gone in the frame, Noah Diddle singled home Drummer and Cole Steele to extend the Tornado lead to 5-0.
The Bobcats — who left runners on second base in each of the first two frames — made it to third base in the top of the third inning, but again stranded the runner. Green made it to third base for the final time after loading the bases in the top of the fourth inning, but left all-3 runners stranded.
After a scoreless third frame, Southern’s lead grew to 7-0 in the fourth, as Drummer scored on an error, and Shuler scored on a passed ball.
Green left its sixth runner in scoring position in the top of the fifth inning, and didn’t get another chance. A bases loaded walk, followed by a two-run single from Shuler capped off the Tornadoes’ 10-0 mercy rule win in the bottom of the frame.
Following the district semifinal win, fourth-year Tornadoes head coach Kyle Wickline discussed his team’s offensive execution, as well as his two seniors on the mound.
“We did what we want to at the plate,” Wickline said. “We were aggressive and we were patient, if that makes sense. In certain situations we were patient, we made him throw strikes, and then we had good timely hits.
“Billy Harmon, he pitched the first three innings, we got him out, and then we came back with Jensen Anderson for the last two. Jensen, he’s been slowly finding more and more balls around the zone, he’s been throwing the ball really well here lately. He threw 39 pitches, I wish he could have only thrown 29, but hey, it’s a win and we’re advancing. That’s what we want, to take that next step.”
Harmon was the winning pitcher of record, striking out two batters and walking one, while giving up three hits. Anderson struck out three and walked four, without allowing a hit.
Tanner Kimbler took the loss in 3.1 innings for Green, giving up seven runs, two earned, on five hits and five walks, while recording the team’s only strikeout. Tayte Carver finished the game for the Bobcats, surrendering three earned runs on two hits and three walks.
Leading the way for Southern at the plate, Drummer was 2-for-2 with two runs scored and two runs batted in, and Diddle was 2-for-3 with a run and two RBIs. Coltin Parker doubled once and scored once in the win, Shuler singled once, scored twice and drove in two runs, while Ryan Acree chipped in with a single. Anderson tallied a pair of RBIs for the victors, while Laudermilt and Steele scored two runs apiece.
Kimbler led the Bobcats at the plate, going 2-for-3 with a double. Mason Barber had the team’s only other hit, a single in the second inning.
Green committed all-4 of the game’s errors and left eight runners on base, twice as many as the Tornadoes.
Across from the Purple and Gold in Wednesday’s district final is top-seeded Clay, champion of the Southern Ohio Conference Division I.
“They’re a really solid team,” Wickline said of Clay. “They split with Green on the year in the SOC, they’re SOC champs, and they played pretty well out here against South Webster. We’ll come out to play tomorrow night.”
Clay defeated South Webster by a 10-3 tally in the first district semifinal at VA Memorial Stadium on Tuesday.
Alex Hawley can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2100.