XENIA — It took a long time to complete, but there was never any doubt.
The Anna Rockets used a gift-wrapped six-run second inning to roll to a 14-4 victory over outclassed Marion Pleasant in the Division 3 Regional baseball semifinals Thursday at Athletes In Action sports complex in Xenia.
The win puts the Rockets at 25-3-1 on the year and advances them to the champioship game today back in Xenia against Versailles, a 1-0 winner over Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy in the second game Thursday.
Anns was making its second straight trip to the regional after losing in the semifinals last season. This time around, the Rockets spotted Marion Pleasant a run in the bottom of the first, but in the top of the second, starting pitcher Bryce Pytlarz completely lost the strike zone.
The first Anna hitter grounded out before Nathan Frilling singled to left to become Anna’s first baserunner. That’s when the game took a big turn.
Kain Luthman, who would go on to belt a pair of home runs, walked, but Kyle Wubker grounded out to the pitcher for the second out of the inning. Then came walks to Zach White and Derek Coverstone, both on eight pitches, a balk, a walk on five pitches, another walk, and after Marion brought on a new pitcher, there was still another walk.
Aiden Endsley then grounded to the former pitcher at short, but he beat the throw, and while Pleasant was questioning the ball, two Anna players crossed the plate.
So when it was all over, the Rockets had scored six times on just two hits, and one of those never left the infield. And the inning included six walks.
Unfortunately, Anna starter Alex Brinkman was also having trouble finding the plate, and it forced coach Kristian Althauser to yank him in the second after three walks, the first two on eight pitches. Joey Cummings, the area leader in saves, came on and did well, pitching through the sixth inning.
The way the game unfolded, Anna now has Brinkman available for today’s championship game.
“I think his (home plate umpire) zone was tight, but he was consistent,” said Althauser. “Alex has to get some of those edge calls, and he wasn’t. So we got him out of there. But we have him (today), and he’s a guy you want to have the ball in big games.”
Marion Pleasant scored single runs in each of the first three innings to cut the lead to 6-3, and threatened to make it more in the third, loading the bases with two outs. But the next hitter hit it sharply to third, and that’s where Marion grounders went to die on this day, because Zach Watren was stationed there. Nothing got past him all game long.
“He solidified that third base early in the season, and it allowed us to move guys around,” said Althauser. “Joey (Cummings) throws strikes and relies on his defense, and our defense has done a good job all year.”
Anna settled it in the top of the fourth after two out and nobody on. Endsley had his second infield single, and Nathan Frilling walked. Luthman then cracked one well over the fence in left field to make it a 9-3 game. Two errors from a shoddy Pleasant defense led to another run before the inning was through.
Anna went up 11-3 an inning later when Luke Albers smacked a solo home run to right field. Then in the sixth, Luthman hit his second homer with no one aboard, and in the seventh, Endsley had an RBI single, his third hit of the day, and came around to score on Frilling’s double.
Anna`060 411 2`14`11`2
MP`110 010 0`4`8`5
B. Pytlarz (LP), Z. Pitlarz (2) and Kelley; Brinkman (WP), Cummings (2), Boyd (7) and White.
Records: Anna 25-3-1, Marion 17-10.
Anna’s next game: Regional finals, today at Xenia, 5 p.m. vs. Versailles.