FORT LORAMIE — Perfection is hard to come by in high school baseball, but Fort Loramie has been as close as possible this season and was again on Thursday.
The Redskins, which are the No. 1 ranked team in Div. IV in the state coaches poll, earned their eighth run-rule win of the season and their 12th shutout victory with a 10-0 win over Sidney in six innings.
Fort Loramie senior pitcher Jared Middendorf was nearly perfect. He allowed only one base runner (on catcher inference in the fourth inning) and struck out 11 batters while getting through the game on 65 pitches.
“Warmups were going good and I was cruising, and everything just went good,” Middendorf said. “We’re the best team in the state, and I don’t feel anything is going to take us down. We’re cruising, and it’s going really good. I can’t wait for the postseason to come around.”
Fort Loramie (19-0, 9-0 Shelby County Athletic League) needed a bit to get going at the plate, but its hitting increased late. The Redskins finished with 10 hits and scored eight runs in the last three innings after stranding seven runners in the first three.
“When your pitcher is pounding the strike zone, the whole game flows better,” Fort Loramie coach Jeff Sanders said. “Your offense is better, your defense is better. As long as your pitchers can do that and keep putting us in the position to be under less pressure, it feels like a different game.”
Sanders said the team can’t afford to get complacent, though. The Redskins have three SCAL games left, starting with Houston on Friday. They also have a big game against Anna (13-3, 9-1) looming next Tuesday.
“I like where we’re at, but we still have a lot of games to go and still have the SCAL on the line,” Sanders said. “We’re not in tournament mode yet; there’s a lot of things we’ve got to do yet.”
Fort Loramie has won 26 consecutive games dating back to last season’s tournament run and has shut out five of its last six opponents. Middendorf said the squad doesn’t feel any pressure to keep the winning streak alive — at least in regular season.
“We know it’s bound to happen, but we don’t really think about that, we just think about going out and executing every pitch, every at-bat, and letting the chips fall,” Middendorf said.
The team has had a couple of close calls — including a 3-0 win over Jackson Center on Monday in which each team had three hits.
“That Monday game was only our second in 15 days at that point, and it could have been a little bit of rust, but you have to give Jackson Center’s pitcher (Carson Regula) a lot of credit,” Sanders said. “… I told the guys after that even though we won, it felt like a loss, and we were pretty down.
“… But that might have been a game where if we didn’t have a seasoned, experienced, confident bunch, we may have lost that game. But we were able to have struggled against a great pitcher in bad conditions and still won and learned from it, and that’s the sign of a good team.”
The loss was the seventh in a row for Sidney (4-14, 2-11 GWOC American North), which lost two games at Greenville on Monday in its final matchups with a GWOC North opponent.
Sidney kept close early on, though.
Fort Loramie scored two runs on one hit in the first inning in part thanks to Sidney starter Trey Werntz hitting two batters in walking one.
Werntz got out of a bases-loaded jam in the second, though, by getting CJ Billing to fly out with one out. Shane Hilgefort appeared to score on the play, but the umpires later ruled he left third early, which resulted in the third out.
Fort Loramie had two runners on base with one out in the third but Werntz got Eli Rosengarten to hit into a groundout and struck out Darren Hoying.
The Redskins went to work in the fourth, though, as Nathan Raterman and Billing both hit RBI singles to the outfield to increase the lead to 4-0.
Sidney swapped Werntz for Darius Boeke in the fifth, and Fort Loramie kept hitting.
Hilgefort hit a 2-RBI single to center field in the fifth to increase the lead to 6-0. In the sixth, Middendorf hit a double with one out to left field, then Wehrman beat a throw to first base after hitting a grounder. Ben Bahorst followed with an RBI double to right field and Rosengarten hit an RBI single to center to increase the lead to 8-0.
Boeke then walked the next three batters to end the game.
Middendorf, a senior, was masterful throughout. Of his 65 pitches, 50 were strikeouts. He didn’t allow a walk.
“He was on his game,” Sanders said. “We had some rainouts recently and I think that was a blessing. We had our pitchers a little worn down, and our pitchers have come back refreshed. Now, hopefully we’re on our way to getting ready for the postseason.”
Billing and Barhorst were each 2 for 4 for Fort Loramie with 2 RBIs while Hilgefort was 2 for 3 with 3 RBIs. In addition to their 10 hits, the Redskins collected eight walks.
Thursday’s game was scheduled to be at Sidney but was moved to Fort Loramie due to bad field conditions in Sidney.
After facing Houston on Friday, Fort Loramie will host Springfield on Saturday in nonconference action before taking on the Rockets at home on Monday.
Sidney will return to action on Friday against Fairborn and will travel to Springfield next Tuesday.
Reach Bryant Billing at 937-538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.