By DAVE HANNEMAN
HAMLER — McComb needed one big inning to punch its ticket to the district championship game.
Leipsic needed a whole lot more than that.
McComb erased a 2-1 deficit by sending 12 batters to the plate during an eight-run fourth-inning rally and rolled to a 13-3 win over Arcadia on Wednesday in the first of two Division IV district baseball semifinals played at Patrick Henry High School.
Leipsic had to go extra innings in the second game, scoring three times in the top of the ninth to get past the host Patriots, 6-3.
Wednesday’s wins set up a classic rematch between Leipsic (18-8) and McComb (19-5) in Friday’s 5 p.m. district championship game.
In an early April Blanchard Valley Conference matchup, McComb ace Tanner Schroeder threw a complete-game no-hitter and struck out 12 in the Panthers’ 1-0 victory over Leipsic. It was a pivotal win for the Panthers, who went to capture the outright BVC title.
Leipsic’s Dylan Schroeder was impressive in that game as well, allowing just three hits and striking out 11 over five scoreless innings.
Tanner Schroeder will be available to pitch Friday. The senior right-hander made an appearance on Wednesday after Arcadia, leading 2-1 at the time, got the first two batters on in the top of the fourth inning. Schroeder threw 22 pitches in ending that threat and retiring Arcadia in the fifth before being replaced, well short of the 125-pitch count mandated by the National Federation of State High School Associations in 2016 and adopted by the Ohio High Athletic Association in 2017.
Dylan Schroeder will not be available to pitch in Friday’s final, though. The senior right-hander started Wednesday’s game against Patrick Henry, allowing three runs on six hits, striking out eight and walking three through five innings. With Schroeder’s pitch count at 110, though, he did not return to the mound for the bottom of the sixth inning. Cole Rieman came on in relief, held Patrick Henry scoreless the rest of the way, and earned the win.
Pitch count was a pivotal factor in the second game.
Patrick Henry’s Christian Petersen was throwing an outstanding game. The senior right-hander retired 10 of 11 batters after giving up those two runs in the first inning, and then 10 of 12 after Dylan Schroeder’s double and Tyler Hiegel single tied the game 3-3 in the fifth.
Petersen needed just 11 pitches to set Leipsic down 1-2-3 in the eighth inning. But that brought his pitch count for the game to 119, six short of the mandatory limit set by the OHSAA.
Forced to make a change, Patrick Henry coach Ray Greene brought in Axel Shanks, another senior right-hander, to start the ninth. Jaden Siefker, Leipsic’s No. 8 hitter, greeted Shanks with a single to left. Unable to get his curve over, Shanks then beaned three straight batters to force in a run. Layke Crossland then came on in a bases-loaded, no-out situation. He got out of the inning, but not before two walks bumped the score to 6-3.
“It was tough to take (Petersen) out because he was really in a groove those last few innings,” Greene said. “But the pitch count is there for a reason, to protect the kids, and that’s always got to be your top priority.
“You couldn’t ask for a better baseball game. It was two good pitchers going at it, a real battle. We just ran out of gas there at the end.”
“The Petersen boy, he’s tough. He’s a really good all-around pitcher,” Leipsic coach Darren Henry said.
“Obviously the pitch count helped. But I thought we did a pretty good job against him. We struck out some (11 times total), but I was more than thrilled, actually a little surprised. I thought we had some good at-bats against him.”
In addition to pitching a solid game, Dylan Schroeder was 3 for 3 with two singles and a double. He also walked once, was hit by a pitch once and scored twice. Hiegel had a single, double and drove in two runs.
Petersen starred at the plate as well with three singles, a double and two RBIs. Shanks and Clayton Feehan added two hits each for Patrick Henry, which ends its season at 8-14.
Just four days after a 10-2 BVC loss to McComb, Arcadia faced the Panthers again, this time in Wednesday’s district semifinals. In those four days, Arcadia coach Dereck Uitto had formulated a game plan, and early on it was working. Relying on solid pitching and solid defense, the Redskins built a 2-1 lead on a team that had a .315 team batting average and was averaging 6.6 runs a game.
The way Uitto saw it, his Redskins had nothing to lose.
“They’re the No. 1 seed. We’re No. 5,” Uitto said. “We wanted to keep it close the first three four innings and put the pressure on them. Early on, it was all going according to plan.”
Arcadia broke a scoreless tie in the third inning. Wyatt Lucas was hit by a pitch and Hayden Rader doubled leading off the inning. McComb’s defense made two excellent plays, but Lucas and Rader were able to score on ground ball to second and third.
Arcadia’s defense then snuffed a potential rally with an inning-ending 6-6-3 double play in the bottom of the third, but McComb unlatched the flood gates in the fourth.
Kaplan Threet started it with a seeing-eye single up the middle that got just under the gloves Kaiden Scott, who was pitching, and Rader, who was playing short. Jake Simons then lined a screamer up the middle and Jared Dillon was hit by a pitch to load the bases
No. 9 hitter Aaron Davis then put down a bunt. Scott slipped as went to pick up the ball, and his hurried his throw to first went off the runner, allowing two runs to score.
Nate Bishop reached on another bunt single, and Tanner Schroeder was intentionally walked, loading the bases once more.
Eli Palmer came to the mound in a bases-loaded no-out situation but a fielding error and a throwing error on one play emptied the bases in a hurry. Simons capped the rally with his second RBI single of the inning.
“Sometimes its the top part of the lineup that comes through; sometimes it’s the bottom part,” said Simons, who had three hits and three RBIs in the game.
“We work our tails off in practice. We spend a lot of time in the (hitting) cage. We take a lot of pride in that.”
Bishop, who faced an odd five-man infield defensive alignment every time he came to the plate, also had three hits and drove in two runs. Andrew Smith (1B, 2B, 2 RBI), Kyle Wasson (2-1B, 2 RBI) and Threet (2-1B) had two hits each.
Rader and Scott doubled and Dom Guillen had an RBI single for Arcadia which wrapped up an 8-17 season.
“We’ve had games this year where we’ve fallen apart, and today was one of the falling-apart versions of us,” Uitto said.
“We’re not there yet. We have to take the next step. We can appreciate people saying we’re competitive, but we’d like to go from being competitive to winning those games.”
McComb will carry into Friday’s game a nine-game winning streak that has earned the Panthers not only a BVC championship but a spot in the district final as well.
“We’re focused. Our guys are excited to be here. We;’re glad to be playing on Friday,” said McComb coach Ross Shoup.
“Our boys set some goals at the beginning of the season. The first was to win the BVC. And after last year’s tough loss to North Baltimore in the semifinals, they had a goal of getting past that game and getting back to the district final.
“We’ve put together a nice stretch of wins here at the end of the season. We feel we’re starting to peak at he right time.”
MCCOMB 13, ARCADIA 3
Arcadia 002 001 — 3 6 5
McComb 001 822 — 13 13 1
WP — Schroeder. LP — Scott. top hitters: (Arc) Rader 2B; Guillen 1B, RBI; Scott 2B. (McC) Bishop 3-1B, 2 RBI; T. Schroeder 2B; Smith 1B, 2B, 2 RBI; Wasson 2-1B, 2 RBI; Threet 2-1B; Simons 3-1B, 3 RBI.
records: Arcadia 8-17, McComb 19-5.
LEIPSIC 6, PATRICK HENRY 3
Leipsic 200 010 003 — 6 8 2
Patrick Henry 110 100 000 — 3 9 0
WP — Rieman. LP — Shanks. top hitters: (Leip) D. Schroeder 2-1B, 2B; Hiegel 2B, 1B, 2 RBI; Liffick 1B, RBI; T. Schroeder 1B, 2 RBI. (PH) Shanks 1B, 2B; Petersen 3-1B, 2B, 2 RBI; Feehan 2-1B; Crossland 1B, RBI
records: Lepsic 18-8, Patrick Henry 8-14.