By BRANDON SHRIDER
Carey’s Reece Mullholand was in the hole with a runner on third and one out in the seventh inning of a tie game in a Division IV district semifinal.
The sophomore was hoping he’d get his chance to leave a mark.
He did that and more, driving a fly ball to center field that allowed Brayden Wentling to tag up and score the winning run in the Blue Devils 3-2 win over Riverdale at Findlay’s Marathon Diamonds at The Cube.
Riverdale intentionally walked the No. 3 and 4 batters to load the bases and get to Mullholand.
“I was hoping they would walk ’em. In my mind I knew I got this, I could do it,” Mullholand said. “I didn’t expect them to put Grant on, but I was happy. I like the pressure, I like to be in that spotlight. I knew I could come up and get it done.”
The Blue Devils improved to 23-1 and will play North Baltimore — a 2-0 winner over McComb in eight innings in the day’s second district semifinal — for a district title back at The Cube at 5 p.m. on Friday. The Blue Devils beat North Baltimore 6-5 earlier this season in late April.
Riverdale, which advanced to the district semifinals for the first time in 16 years, ended its season at 12-12.
Wentling, one of two players to have more than one hit, led the inning off with a single. He then stole second and Easton Roark belted a center field fly ball to advance him to third. Back-to-back intentional walks to Trey Bame — who had an RBI double down the third base line two innings prior to take a 2-1 lead — and Grant Frederick set the stage for Mullholand.
“Situations. That’s what we do. Put the bat on the ball with less than two outs and a runner on third. We stress and stress and stress that,” Carey coach Joey Roark said.
Bame was effective on the mound, too, striking out nine and carrying a no-hitter into the seventh inning. He faced just two batters more than the minimum as he improved his record to 11-0.
A slow roller to Frederick at third was beaten out by Aidan Loveridge to break up the no-no. Bame struck out the next batter, and after an RBI single to tie the game, Caden Owens — who allowed the first run of the game to score on a passed ball — threw Wayne Frey out at second on an attempted steal. The inning ended with a groundout to short.
“He’s been like that all year,” Roark said of his ace.
“I was just happy I even had a no-hitter going that long, but at that time I knew it’s still a tournament game, it’s an elimination game so you gotta brush that off fast and just keep doing what I’ve been doing,” Bame added.
North Baltimore and McComb had a similar pitching duel in the second game, this time scoreless through seven innings.
Heads-up baserunning ultimately pushed the Tigers (14-9) over the top.
Nine-hole hitter Zac Weinandy led off the top of the eighth inning — with McComb starter Tanner Schroeder no longer pitching as he approached the OHSAA pitch count limit — by reaching first base on an error. Logan Meronk then struck out on Justin Wasson’s hard-breaking curveball in four pitches. But Weinandy, on the dropped third strike, went from first to third to put the go-ahead run just 90 feet away with one out.
“That was huge. Actually, he took off to second and I was gonna hold him there and then all of a sudden he looked up and I just kinda thought to send him but he took off. He pretty much did it on his own and it was a great play,” North Baltimore coach Marty Gazarek said.
Jaden Bucher brought Weinandy in for the game’s first run on a groundout to second. Adam Flores added an insurance run by roping his game-high third hit of the game to bring around Tigers starter Levi Gazarek for a 2-0 lead.
The Panthers, who ended their season at 12-8, did not go down without their chances.
McComb left the bases loaded in the third inning when Kyle Wasson popped out to first and he nearly got his redemption with the bases loaded in the bottom of the seventh.
With three runners on and one out, after North Baltimore walked Schroeder — who led McComb in both batting average (.516) and home runs (4) this season — for the fourth consecutive at-bat, Wasson stepped to the plate again and ripped the first pitch high and deep down the third base line. The ball droppd just foul, but Wasson then blasted the next two pitches toward right field. Both fell foul again. The fourth pitch, with the Tigers infield playing in, was hit hard to second base and Weinandy made the throw to home for the force out.
“Both teams had bases loaded a couple times, at one time we had to bring the infield in and they hit it right to second. There’s so many plays where you’re like ‘wow how did we get out of it?'” Gazarek said.
Riverdale 000 100 1 — 2 2 4
Carey 000 110 1 — 3 6 2
WP — Bame (11-0). LP — W. Frey. top hitters: (Riv) Ai. Loveridge & W. Frey 1B. (Car) Wentling 2-1B; Bame 1B, 2B, RBI; Mullholand 1B, RBI; Owens RBI.
records: Riverdale 12-12, Carey 23-1.
North Baltimore 000 000 02 — 2 5 3
McComb 000 000 00 — 0 4 1
WP — Gazarek. LP — J. Wasson. top hitters: (NB) Flores 3-1B, RBI; Bucher 1B, RBI; Gazarek 1B. (McC) Smith 2-1B; Bishop & Jar. Dillon 1B.
records: North Baltimore 14-9, McComb 12-8.