DAYTON — A win would have been preferred, but Lehman Catholic got something else it needed in a nonconference game at Fifth Third Field on Monday: a tune-up.
The Cavaliers played their first game in five days after shutting down for Holy Week and took an opportunity to shake off any rust before a big Northwest Central Conference game on Tuesday at Lima Perry.
Dayton Christian gave Lehman a workout. The Warriors scored seven runs in the middle innings to take control and then avoided a late collapse in an 8-5 victory.
Dayton Christian led 8-0 before the Cavaliers (12-3, 5-1 NWCC) scored five runs in the last three innings, including three runs in the seventh with two outs.
“It would have been interesting if we could have kept it going, but it was a good effort,” King said. “It’s never over until it’s over, and it’s good to see our guys play like that. …The bottom line, though, is it’s good for us to get back on the field before Tuesday and get ready to go to Lima.”
Lehman is in third place in the NWCC, and King is hopeful the squad can knock off Perry, who is in first place with a 4-0 conference record. Marion Elgin is also undefeated in NWCC play.
The looming conference showdown forced the Cavaliers to make some odd choices on Monday in order to make sure players would be available for Tuesday — like pulling a pitcher with a 2-2 count to make sure his pitch count for the week didn’t go too high.
“I’m not saying we were understaffed because our guys did fight and we played pretty good, but we’re playing for a league title and wanted to make sure we’re ready for (Tuesday),” King said. “We had some opportunities but wasted them against a very good ball team.”
Lehman struggled to hit early against Dayton Christian pitcher Justin Dillhoff, who gave up four hits and struck out eight batters in five innings with three walks.
The Cavaliers started hitting after he was removed and made it interesting in the seventh.
Seth Roe led off the inning with a walk but the next two batters hit into routine outs. The inning was far from over, though.
RJ Bertini hit a single and Alex Keller hit an RBI single to right field. Dayton Christian pitcher Dylan Brewer hit the next two batters to load the bases and score another run. The Warriors swapped Bower for Seth Griswold, but Mitchell Sollmann hit an infield single to score another run. John Cianciolo then hit a pop out to end it.
“We had some opportunities earlier in the game that we let slip away,” King said. “… It’s always fun for the guys to come down here, though. They do the job by selling (Dayton Dragons) tickets they have to (in order) to play here.”
The Warriors scored in the first inning after Dillhoff hit a line-drive double to left field to score a runner from second base.
Dayton Christian extended the lead with a big third inning. Dylan Bower and Sam Jackson hit singles to right field, then Dillhoff brought Bower home on a sacrifice fly. Andrew Dreier brought home another run on an RBI single to left field and Luke Caddy later hit an RBI single to shortstop to increase the lead to 4-0.
The Warriors added two runs in the fourth after an RBI single by Bower and an RBI double by Jackson. Lehman Catholic saw a scoring chance evaporate in the bottom half.
Bryce Kennedy led off the inning with a single to right field on a line drive, then Bertini walked. The duo advanced to third and second on a sacrifice bunt by Keller, but Jared Magoteaux then hit a pop out and Bradly Haynes struck out to end the inning.
Dayton Christian scored two runs on one hit and one walk in the fifth.
The Cavaliers scored in the bottom of the fifth. Sollmann led off the inning with a walk and later advanced to second on a single by Roe. He then scored after a single by Drew Barhorst.
Lehman added another run in the sixth. Keller led off the inning with a single, advanced to second on an error and advanced to third on a single by John Edwards. He later scored on a fielder’s choice.
Dayton Christian had 10 hits and four errors while Lehman had eight hits and one error.
Ethan Potts picked up the loss for Lehman. He pitched 3 1/3 innings and gave up six earned runs on nine hits.
“We’ve got to get Potts a little tougher mentally,” King said. “You can’t let people get two strikes and get behind on you and stuff like that. But the key thing is you can’t measure the experience he got on the mound today.”
Dayton Christian (12-2, 5-0 Metro Buckeye Conference) is the first of many strong nonconference opponents in the coming weeks for Lehman, who will also face the likes of Troy Christian (8-2) and Fort Recovery (9-5).
“We’ve still got a lot of baseball left, and we’re not giving up by any stretch of the imagination and are trying to get better,” King said. “We’re gearing up and hopefully will win the games we should.”