CINCINNATI — Fort Loramie struggled a bit against an off-speed pitcher in a district final against Troy Christian last week. It turned out to be a good tune-up for a Division IV regional semifinal against Cedarville on Friday at Cincinnati Princeton High School.
The Redskins racked up 10 hits against two Cedarville pitchers and cruised to a 9-1 victory to advance to a regional final on Saturday. Fort Loramie (27-3) will face Shelby County Athletic League rival Russia, which beat Lancaster Fisher Catholic in Friday’s second semifinal.
Fort Loramie blew the game open in the third inning. The Redskins scored a run to take a 1-0 lead in the first, then added five runs on five hits in the third against starting pitcher Caden McKinion.
McKinion, a junior, lasted three innings and gave up five earned runs on six hits and four walks while striking out four batters. Caleb McKinion, a senior, pitched the last four innings and gave up three earned runs on four hits and three walks while striking out three batters.
“I was much more pleased today,” Fort Loramie coach Jeff Sanders said. “I think after Troy Christian, we needed to work on making our adjustments at the plate against pitchers who throw more off-speed.
“… Both (McKinions) are really, really good pitchers. One has a little more off-speed stuff, which is Caden, the starter. I thought we had some good at bats against him. It wasn’t perfect, but I thought we had some effective enough at bats to get some runners on, run his pitch count up a little bit, tire him out a little bit, put people in position to score for when we could get that hit.”
Caeleb Meyer pitched a complete game for Fort Loramie. He gave up one earned run on five hits and two walks while striking out nine batters.
Meyer, a senior right-hander, is normally further back in the rotation but was called on to pitch on Friday. He also pitched in the team’s district semifinal last week, while ace Mack Fortman started against Troy Christian two days later. Fortman is expected to start Saturday.
“We put him in front of Mack because he controls the strike zone, and we thought he’d be a good matchup for Cedarville,” Sanders said. “His ball has got good movement and he’s got good mound presence. He did a good job. He’d probably tell you he wasn’t 100 percent sharp, but he did the job when he needed to and made good pitches when he had to.”
Fort Loramie will return to Princeton on Saturday for a regional final, which is scheduled to start at 12 p.m. The squad beat the Raiders 3-1 and 4-0 in SCAL matchups in regular season.
The Redskins won a regional title in 2018 and went on to win the D-IV state title. Sanders said quick turnarounds are tough for both teams involved.
“I don’t know if there’s really a secret recipe. You’ve just got to come ready to play,” Sanders said. “Have good at bats and maintain your focus. Execute when you need to execute, whether it’s a bunt, a steal, a two-strike swing or a two-out at bat. That’s what makes the difference.”
Flawless defense can also help make the difference. The Redskins didn’t commit an error on Friday while Cedarville committed two.
“Defensively, it was an excellent day,” Sanders said.
Fort Loramie got started in the third after Mack Fortman was hit by a pitch with one out. Evan Eilerman then hit a line-drive single to center field, and Caeleb Meyer followed with an RBI single along the third-base line that bounced by third baseman Hunter Baldwin to increase the lead to 2-0.
Grant Albers followed with a 2-RBI single on a line drive to center field to increase the gap to four runs. Albers was thrown out trying to steal second while Devin Ratermann was at the plate for the second out.
Ratermann, the team’s No. 9 hitter, blasted a single to center field, then scored from first when Trevor Middendorf hit a line-drive double to left to push the lead to 5-0.
“That just adds a lot more pressure on the defense when we’ve got every body in the lineup producing some way,” Sanders said.
The final run of the inning came shortly after on an error by shortstop Caleb McKinion on a grounder by Derek Meyer. Middendorf scored from second on the error to increase the lead to six runs.
Cedarville scored one run in the bottom of the inning. The Indians loaded the bases with two outs on a walk and two singles, then Braydon Criswell hit an RBI single to left to cut the gap to 6-1. Caeleb Meyer then struck out Mitch Rogers on four pitches to get out of the jam.
Fort Loramie added a run in the fifth. Caleb McKinion took over on the mound in the fourth and walked in a run in the fifth. The Redskins loaded the bases on a walk and two singles before McKinion walked Caeleb Meyer to increase the lead to 7-1.
Darren Hoying drove in the final two runs of the game in the seventh on a double to left with two outs.
The Redskins took the lead in the bottom of the first. Jake Sanders drew a walk with one out, then stole second two batters later when Fortman was at the plate.
Fortman hit a chopper with two outs that bounced by Cedarville second baseman Gunnar Gannon and into center field, and Sanders ran home to give the squad a 1-0 lead.
Fort Loramie left the bases loaded in the second.
Albers drew a walk with one out in the second and stole second while Ratermann was at the plate. After working up a full count and fouling off several pitches, Ratermann walked on a wild pitch that allowed Albers to move to third.
Middendorf then drew a walk to load the bases for Derek Meyer, who flew out to left field. Sanders then flew out to center field to end the inning.
Ratermann was 3 for 3 with one walk while Caeleb Meyer was 2 for 4. Albers was 1 for 2 with two walks and 2 RBIs.
Cedarville finishes 19-13.
Reach Bryant Billing at 937-538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.