AKRON — Many Lincolnview fans entered Akron’s Canal Field wearing shirts with ‘24-0,’ printed large. The shirts, which were produced within the last week, informed any who weren’t aware of ace pitcher Landon Price’s career record.
Russia made it 24-1.
The Raiders rocked Price, an Ohio State signee, and pulled away in the sixth to a 10-4 victory and the Division IV state championship.
Russia got seven hits off of Price in the first three innings and built a 3-2 lead. Price, who throws with little time between pitches, found himself in battles throughout the day as Russia batters drove up pitch counts by fouling off 27 balls.
Price had to be removed in the sixth after reaching the OHSAA limit of 125 pitches. The Raiders exploded for seven runs after he left to put the game away.
Russia pitcher Xavier Phlipot pitched a complete game on 109 throws.
“Xavier did a better job of battling through the strike zone,” Russia coach Kevin Phlipot said. “We were told this was a minor league umpire. He had a tight strike zone. He was consistent and he was outstanding. But it was tighter than high school kids are used to.”
Price struck out 10 batters, but Russia gathered eight hits in the 5 2/3 innings he was on the mound. The Raiders also drew two walks and had two batters hit by pitches by Price, who was visibly frustrated on the mound at times and struggled with his command.
“We battled Price and his fastball. We had seven hits in the first three innings. I don’t think he’s used to that,” Kevin Phlipot said. “… We fouled balls off, we battled. We took a lot of pitches. We did obviously chase some, but we battled. Those foul balls helped our base runners and helped get him to get out of the game early.
“He wasn’t very sharp, and we jumped all over it.”
Xavier Phlipot, a junior, pitched a complete game and threw mostly low in the zone. He gave up three earned runs on eight hits and one walk while striking out five batters.
“I got warned just before the game it was a minor league umpire, so I figured it would be a tight strike zone,” Phlipot, who is Kevin Phlipot’s nephew, said. “…In the first inning, I kind of struggled a little bit to throw strikes. But after that, I did better, and my defense made great plays. I was able to settle down in the dugout, and then I was able to command the zone and keep the ball low.”
The team watched some Division I and II semifinals in Akron on Friday, and Xavier Phlipot said it helped prepare for Price.
“It’s not about how fast you throw, it’s about where you throw,” Phlipot said. “… We saw guys throwing 90 yesterday, but they kind of had the same problem. They were throwing a lot of balls, and all it took was one hit, because there were runners on base. I had runners on base too, but I was able to keep the ball down, and my defense made great plays.”
It was a year in the making for Russia (25-6).
The Raiders lost 7-1 to Shelby County Athletic League rival Fort Loramie in a regional final last season and returned most of the team.
The program beefed up its nonconference schedule even more than usual, including several tough opponents early. Russia dropped to 8-5 after a loss to Chaminade-Julienne on April 26 but won 17 of its last 18 games — including a 7-1 regional final win over Fort Loramie.
“Everything we did was preparing for this moment,” Kevin Phlipot said. “It was preparing for a regional game against Loramie, getting over that hump. We knew once we did that, anything can happen. We were obviously ecstatic for that win, but these kids, their mindset, they don’t get too excited.
“After getting passed that, they were focused, had tunnel vision. They just wanted to keep it moving forward. Don’t worry about stuff. We’ve been through rain delays, we’ve been through 30- and 40-degree weather, freezing cold. We played once or twice some weeks (due to weather).
“We came here and got delayed (in Thursday’s state semifinal), but I told the guys that we’re used to it. All we have to do is go out there and play ball.”
Like Russia’s last four tournament wins, the squad overcame an early deficit on Saturday.
The Lancers scored one run off two hits in the second to take a 1-0 lead, but the Raiders scored two in the bottom half. Zane Shappie hit an RBI single to left center field and Jude Counts hit an RBI single to right in the inning.
Lincolnview scored one run in the third to tie it after two Russia errors and a hit batter, but the Raiders battled back in the bottom half of the inning.
Hayden Quinter singled to right field with one out, then Braylon Cordonnier hit a single along the first-base line. Aiden Shappie then followed with an RBI single to give Russia 3-2 lead.
The score stayed the same the next 2.5 innings, though both squads left runners in scoring position at points.
Russia blew it open in the sixth.
Aiden Shappie led off the inning with a single, but Price struck out the next two batters.
As Price neared his pitch limit, Jude Counts battled in a five-pitch plate appearance before Price hit him on his 125th pitch of the day.
Keegan Farris was brought in to replace Price, and the Raiders rocked him.
Farris hit Brayden Monnin with a pitch to load the bases, then walked Xavier Phlipot to walk in a run and give Russia a 4-2 lead.
Hayden Quinter then followed with a 2-RBI double down the left-field line to push the lead to 6-2, then Grant Saunders hit an infield single, and Lincolnview shortstop Dane Ebel committed a throwing error on the play, which allowed pinch runner Felix Francis to score and give Russia a 7-2 lead.
Cordonnier hit a 2-RBI single to right center to push the lead to 9-2 and Aiden Shappie followed with an RBI single before the end of the inning to increase the lead to eight runs.
“They had the top of the lineup coming up (in the seventh), and those guys were on base all day,” Kevin Phlipot said. “ …A one-run lead was nice, but we weren’t too confident until Hayden hit that double down the line.”
Russia scored the most runs any opponent had against Lincolnview this season. The Lancers had allowed more than four runs only four times before Saturday.
“We thought it was going to have to be a 2-1 game for us to win,” Kevin Phlipot said. “That was our mindset. Obviously, we were wrong. We scored, and we were always able to answer.
“That was huge. Answering them was huge. We were concerned, because we didn’t know how dominating he would be. We hadn’t seen that quality of fast ball. We’ve seen good pitchers, but not that type of velocity. We tried to prepare for that in an hour and a half practice yesterday, and we just told the guys to battle the best they could.”
The Lancers did score two runs on two hits in the top of the seventh, but Phlipot coaxed three ground outs to end the inning.
The Raiders hoisted the gold trophy soon after as over 500 Russia fans cheered along the third-base line.
“This is almost the whole community coming out,” Xavier Phlipot said. “It was awesome. Love that they were able to watch this. …They’ve been here the whole time with the crazy stuff, the air horns. They’ve enjoyed it all, and we’ve enjoyed it. They’re loud, and that makes us more confident.”
Russia finished with 13 hits and committed three errors. Lincolnview had eight hits and committed four errors.
Quinter finished 3 for 3 with 2 RBIs and one walk while Aiden Shappie finished 3 for 3 with 2 RBIs. Cordonnier was 3 for 4 with 2 RBIs and Zane Shappie was 2 for 4. Counts was 1 for 1 with one walk.
The state title comes 51 years after the program claimed its first title in 1971. The program finished as runner-ups in 1975 and in 2017.