FAIRBORN — Versailles struggled at the plate in several games early this month but had no such problems against Middletown Madison’s No. 2 pitcher early in a Division III regional semifinal on Thursday at Wright State’s Nischwitz Stadium.
Versailles scored runs in each inning and pulled away to an 8-4 victory to advance to a regional final on Friday in Fairborn. The Tigers will face Cincinnati Roger Bacon, which beat Cincinnati Country Day 4-2 in Thursday’s first semifinal. The winner of Friday’s game will earn a state berth.
Versailles (17-9) lost three of its last five regular season games by a combined score of 16-5 but has found hitting power recently. After edging out Greeneview 3-2 in a district semifinal on May 20 despite being outhit 10-5, the Tigers have blasted their last two opponents. They gathered 11 hits in a 13-11 district final win over Dayton Christian last week and had nine hits on Thursday.
“We came out really big today,” Versailles coach Ryan Schlater said. “It was big to get that run in the first inning to get some momentum, and it just continued from there.
“… We’re hitting the ball really well. That game against Greeneview was a struggle to do it, but once we started to get some hits, it carried over against Dayton Christian.”
The Mohawks started Jake Munafo, who is the second pitcher in their rotation. He gave up two runs (one earned) in two innings after giving up three hits and two walks.
Things didn’t get better when they brought in pitcher Luke Hughes, who gave up six runs (four earned) on six hits and three walks in four innings.
“It’s always a calculated decision, what they felt we could do versus their second guy or third guy,” Schlater said. “It’s a calculated decision since you want to make state. But we came out, were ready to go and hit the baseball today.”
Madison ace pitcher Tristan Sipple — who had a 1.06 ERA and 91 strikeouts in 52 2/3 innings — played at first base on Thursday. Munafo has a 3.04 ERA and Hughes has a 1.88 ERA.
“A lot of people have been disrespecting us all tournament (throwing their) No. 2 or No. 3,” Versailles third baseman Will Eversole said. “I don’t know when they’re going to learn. We were happy but we’ve been preparing for him all week. They didn’t pitch him and we made them pay.”
Zach Griesdorn (3-3) picked up the win for Versailles. He pitched six innings and allowed four earned runs on four hits and seven walks while striking out three batters.
Griesdorn said the team jumping out early took pressure off him.
“I could allow them to hit the ball and put it in play instead of trying to strike them out. That was key,” Griesdorn said.
The Tigers scored three runs in each of the first three innings and added three in the fourth to take control.
Griesdorn got the squad going in the first after hitting a two-out triple to center field. Eversole then hit a single to score Griesdorn and put the Tigers ahead 1-0.
Versailles added a run in the second thanks to a throwing error by Madison on a ground ball, then scored another on a sacrifice flyout in the third after Eversole led off the inning with a double to center field. The Tigers scored three runs on four hits in the fourth, including a line-drive single to left field by Eversole.
Madison cut the gap to 6-4 in the fourth on two walks and three singles, but Versailles scored a run in the bottom half after an RBI single by Andrew DeMange. Adam Kremer scored the Tigers’ last run in the sixth after a fielding error in center field on a deep hit by Nathan Wagner.
Eversole was 3 for 4 with 2 RBIs and two runs. Wagner was 1 for 2 with two walks and scored two runs.
None of the Versailles’ seniors were normal varsity players as freshmen in 2016, and the rest of the squad was either in the stands or at home when the squad lost in a D-III state semifinal that year.
The players will now try to earn their own state berth on Friday. Garrett Toops (4-2, 2.29 ERA) will start on the mound against Roger Bacon, which improved to 17-9 with its semifinal win on Thursday.
“It’s going to be close games (at this stage), and we’ve just got to have timely hitting and throws strikes, and we’ll have a good shot,” Schlater said.
Eversole said it was a big win for the squad, which lost 1-0 to Madison in a district final last year.
“It was kind of heartbreaking to lose the way we did in extras to this team last year,” Eversole said. “It’s always been our dream to make it to state. We’ve had nine seniors (in this class) and we’ve had one goal.”
Reach Bryant Billing at 937-538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.