The McKinion brothers, Caden and Caleb, are both outstanding hurlers and sluggers. Right fielder Sean Harp, center fielder Nick Krooner, shortstop Jack Tencza and second baseman JJ Viau are also superb high school baseball performers.
Obviously, these are not household names for Shelby County high school fans and players at Russia and Fort Loramie. But the two local Shelby County teams will become familiar with these guys by the end of this week.
The McKinions are the aces of the pitching staff of Cedarville, which meets Fort Loramie on Thursday at 2 p.m. in a Division IV regional semifinal at Princeton High School. Caden and Caleb McKinion have both thrown 50 innings on the season and are striking out better than a hitter every three outs. At the plate, each is pounding the ball for an average above .450. The two have driven home 61 runs.
Krooner, a pitcher and outfielder for Lancaster Fisher Catholic, is hitting nearly .600. His earned run average is less than one run per nine innings. Harp, Tencza and Viau are all hitting at clips better than .425 for the Irish.
The Lancaster school tangles with Russia in the other D-IV regional semi on Thursday at 5 p.m.
ScoresBroadcast.com and WMVR, 105.5 TAM FM, will cover both contests at 1:30 and 4:30. And should a Shelby County school play in the regional final, media coverage resumes on Friday at 4:45 p.m.
Kevin Phlipot, head coach of Russia, and Jeff Sanders, head coach of Fort Loramie, are featured in pregame segments on Thursday, along with Andy Pauling, head coach of Cedarville.
All four regional teams are red hot and playing their best baseball of the 2021 season.
Russia (25-5) has won 16 in a row. Fort Loramie (25-3) has reeled off 10 straight victories and beaten opponents in 23 of the last 24. Cedarville (19-12) has blitzed 11 of 13 foes since late April, after a slow start. Fisher (23-4), dropped its first two of the season, won 12 of 13, and then streaked to 11 more wins in its last dozen.
Chuck McBee of ScoresBroadcast.com noted that the pitching staffs for all four regional clubs are strong and could dictate the flow and outcome of the Thursday and Friday games.
“Don’t be surprised if a walk, a stolen base, a bunt, and sacrifice fly combine to manufacture the deciding run in a game or two. Opportunities to score may be few and far between. Runs will be at a premium,” McBee said. “These teams have gaudy batting averages, but the high quality pitching may nullify much of the offenses.”
For Fort Loramie, Jake Sanders is hitting .449; Mack Fortman, 415; Evan Eileman, 408; and Derek Meyer, .368. For Russia, Drew Sherman is batting .440; Xavier Phlipot, 363; Hayden Quinter, .323; and Aiden Shappie, .320.
Fortman, Caeleb Meyer, and Derek Meyer lead the Redskins on the hill. Grant Saunders, Phlipot, and Ross Fiessinger pace the Raiders on the mound.
“The Raiders and Redskins have complete teams that possess effective pitching, produce timely hitting, and display air-tight defenses,” he said. “The two Shelby County schools could meet up on Friday for a berth in the state tournament in Akron.”
If rain affects play on Thursday, the regional semifinals would move to Friday and the final to Saturday.
The D-IV state semifinal in Akron for this week’s southwest regional champ is Friday, June 11, at 1 p.m. The state title game is June 12 at 4 p.m.