RUSSIA — With big Shelby County Athletic League title implications on the line on Thursday, Fort Loramie coach Jeff Sanders said he expected a pitcher’s duel between the Redskins and Russia.
Instead, it was a hitting clinic that put the first matchup between the two squads this season to shame.
The Redskins used a six-run third inning to jumpstart an 18-8 six-inning win over Russia, which clinches them a share of the SCAL title.
Fort Loramie improved to 10-2 in league play with the win and is tied for first place with Anna, which beat Fairlawn 10-0 on Thursday.
“With having both these great pitchers, and on their home diamond and so much at stake, I expected something like 4-2,” Sanders said. “… These guys want it, they really want it. They figured out a way to really want games, and we really came out and put it to them.”
Fort Loramie had 19 hits against four Russia pitchers. Nearly all of the Redskins’ hits went to the outfield.
The Raiders won the team’s first SCAL matchup 11-1 on April 20 in Fort Loramie.
“You’ve got to give those guys’ credit; they absolutely hit the ball all over the place,” Russia coach Kevin Philpot said. “We were throwing fastballs away, and they were just drilling them. It was an impressive job on their part. It was one of those nights were nothing good could happen, it seemed like.
“… We did the same thing to them at their place. It’s the way the game can be.”
Both the Redskins (20-5) and Anna are done with SCAL play. Russia (17-6, 9-2 SCAL) travels to Fairlawn on Friday to wrap up league play and can earn a share of the title with a win.
Philpot said he’s confident Russia can bounce back at Fairlawn.
“I believe in these kids, and as tough as it is to take a lump like us, they believe in themselves,” Philpot said. “… We still have chance. Tomorrow’s the most important game of the year for us. All the hard work, our win at Loramie and our win at Anna, mean nothing if we can’t take care of business tomorrow.”
Russia left-handed starter Daniel Kearns, who went his first 19 innings this season without allowing an earned run, was shellacked from the start.
After Fort Loramie’s first two batters hit outfield flyouts, CJ Billing, Jared Middendorf, Eli Rosengarten and Mike Hoying hit outfield singles to help Fort Loramie take a 3-0 lead in the first.
Kearns exited in the second after allowing six hits on 43 pitches.
“He was just a little bit up,” Philpot said of Kearns’ pitching on Thursday. “Guys may not be impressed by his numbers, but he’s going to get you out. Obviously, he gets some flares out at the end of the bat because he’s not going to overpower you.
“But tonight, that just wasn’t it. They came out swinging, they jumped, they got some fastball counts, and they didn’t miss it.”
Russia scored two runs on two hits in the first to cut Fort Loramie’s early lead to 3-2, but the score quickly got lopsided. Billing hit a one-run single to left field and Middendorf hit a one-run double to center field to push the advantage to three runs.
“We’ve seen Kearns a couple of times now, and our game plan coming in was to attack the baseball and not let a first-pitch fastball go by without taking a swing at it,” Sanders said. “Once you get behind on him, he starts mixing it in a little bit, chipping away at the corners. … We felt if we attacked the baseball, we were going to put it in play, and good things were going to happen.”
Jack Dapore was brought in to pitch for Russia and got a fly out to end the second. The Redskins hit against him from the start of the third, though, and quickly ran away.
Fort Loramie had four outfield singles against Dapore in the third, two batters walked and two batters were hit by a pitch. The Redskins scored six runs in the inning to push their lead to 11-2.
Dylan Albers hit a three-run home run in the fifth to push Fort Loramie’s lead to 17-6. Will Sherman hit a two-run double in the bottom half of the inning to cut the deficit to nine runs and force a sixth inning. Devin Wehrman hit a one-run single to left field to push the advantage to 18-8.
Fort Loramie put Rosengarten on the mound in the fifth in relief of starter Jared Middendorf. Evan Monnier led off the sixth with a single for Russia, but Rosengarten ended the inning by forcing two flyouts and a strikeout.
The Redskins beat Ansonia 3-0 in a Division IV sectional semifinal on Wednesday, and Sanders said he was a bit disappointed in the effort. He was pleased to see the team bounce back on Thursday — and knew it wouldn’t take much to get the team fired up for a league rivalry.
“Emotions are running high, I could sense it on the bus ride over here,” Sanders said. “… Most of the guys I had to talk down a little bit from being too keyed up.”
Fort Loramie will travel to Coldwater for a nonconference game on Saturday and will resume tournament play next Wednesday in a sectional final at Sidney against Triad.
Sanders said he’s hopeful the team will be able to continue to hit well against good pitchers.
“Our hitting was going to be our strength all year, but lately it’s been up-and-down,” Sanders said. “We’ve been working real hard in practice at some fundamental stuff, getting back to the basics, something I think we got away from a little bit. These are the pitchers we’re going to face from here on out; good, solid, composed, smart pitchers.”
Middendorf was 4 for 5 for Fort Loramie with 4 RBIs while Billing was 3 for 3 with two walks and 2 RBIs. Nathan Ratermann was 3 for 4 with 3 RBIs, Mike Hoying was 3 for 3 with 2 RBIs and Wehrman was 3 for 5 with 3 RBIs.
Middendorf allowed six earned runs on eight hits in five innings with five strikeouts.
Monnier was 2 for 3 for Russia with 3 RBIs while Sherman was 2 for 3 with 2 RBIs. Carter Francis and Hunter Cohee were both 2 for 3 with 1 RBI.
Russia will resume tournament play in a sectional final next Wednesday at Newton against Lehman Catholic.