CINCINNATI — Russia has ground out 10 wins this season by two runs or less.
The Raiders didn’t grind anything on Friday — they smacked instead.
Russia clobbered Lancaster Fisher Catholic’s best two pitchers and cruised to a 9-0 victory in a Division IV regional semifinal at Cincinnati Princeton High School. The Raiders advance to face Shelby County Athletic League rival Fort Loramie in a regional final on Saturday.
Russia (26-5) smacked nine hits against Fisher Catholic starter Chase Springer, who gave up six earned runs in 2 1/3 innings. Nick Dolci pitched 3 2/3 innings and gave up three earned runs on six hits and three walks.
“It was nice,” Russia coach Kevin Phlipot said. “… (Springer and Dolci) were comparable to what we’ve seen recently; everybody’s been solid throughout the tournament. What I’ve been telling everybody is to just take it one at bat at a time, and everybody today had a solid at bat.
“… We drilled (right field) and had some hard ones on the left side, but everybody was drilling right side. We just kept going at everything away, away, away and just kept attacking them that way. I just loved our approach, being able to look away, react and hit.”
Five Russia batters had multiple hits, all but two of which were singles.
“It was everybody. I’m confident in all our guys,” Phlipot said. “Our middle guys we’re confident in obviously, but our No. 1 and 2 and our 7-8-9, they can all hit. Nobody’s averages are great, but some days a guy or two will get two hits, or the bottom of the order will get on the base somehow, getting hit or a walk.”
It was the 17th consecutive win for the Raiders, which started the season 6-4.
They’ll try for an 18th straight win on Saturday against Fort Loramie. The Redskins beat Russia 3-1 on March 28 and 4-0 on April 22 in SCAL contests in regular season.
It’ll be the second time in five years the teams have met in regional games. Russia knocked off Fort Loramie 8-4 in a regional semifinal in 2017 and eventually advanced to the D-IV state title game, where it lost 3-2 to Minster.
Russia lost to Fort Loramie in two regular-season contests in 2017 by identical scores as this year’s two SCAL matchups.
“It’s just two good teams going at it, and this late in the season with one game and everything on the line, anything can happen,” Phlipot said. “It’s two good teams that know how to compete. What better could you ask for, Russia/Loramie with a trip to state on the line? That’s fun. That’s what it’s about.
“It comes down to them being 17, 18-year-old kids. Can they calm down and not let the moment be too big and just go out there and play ball? Whoever can enjoy the moment more tomorrow I think has got the upper hand.”
Grant Saunders pitched a complete game for the Raiders. He gave up four hits in seven innings and struck out 11 batters without walking any.
“The umpire was giving us the corner, and he was hitting it,” Phlipot said. “They were frustrated, and I would have been a little frustrated if I was on that side too. But I talk about things like that, control the controllable. Anything outside of your hands, you can’t control it. …If you feel the umpire made a bad call, you’ve got to let it go. A couple of those kids, they let it bother them, I think.
“… On the same thing, if he’s calling it outside, throw it two inches farther out, and keep going. Those are key in-game adjustments. If he’s calling it there, you better be swinging at it. They were trying to paint it that way, and we were going with it, the right side pitch away. I think we just did a better job making that adjustment.”
Russia quickly took control. With two outs in the first inning, Drew Sherman hit a single on a hard ground ball to left field, then Saunders drove him in on a line-drive single to left.
Fisher Catholic’s first two hitters in the second inning got on base after a single and an error, but Chase Springer hit a short pop out directly back to Russia pitcher Grant Saunders, and he raced toward first and recorded a double play by stepping on the bag ahead of Dolci, who was trying to race back from second.
“That was their momentum opportunity,” Phlipot said. “They had a chance to get the momentum right there, but we shut that down. I told them if we put two or three runs on the board after that, we could end it.”
Russia scored two runs in the second to take a 3-0 lead. Bayden Monnin hit an RBI double to center field with two outs, then Xavier Phlipot drove him in two batters later on a hard ground ball to left field.
Russia added three runs in the third to push the lead to 6-0. Jared Poling hit a 2-RBI triple on a fly ball to right field, then Ross Fiessinger hit an RBI single to right.
Poling hit an RBI single on a ground ball to left in the fourth to push the lead to 7-0.
The Raiders added two runs in the fifth. Shappie scored after being hit by a pitch, stealing second, moving to third on a single by Phlipot and scoring on a balk. Sherman then hit a hard ground ball to left to score Phlipot and increase the lead to 9-0.
Quinter was 3 for 4. Poling was 2 for 3 with 3 RBIs and Saunders, Sherman and Phlipot were each 2 for 3.
Russia and Fort Loramie met in a district semifinal in 2019, which the Raiders won 1-0 in 10 innings.
Fisher Catholic finishes 23-5 overall.
Reach Bryant Billing at 937-538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.