SOUTH WEBSTER — In one fell swoop on Tuesday evening, the South Webster Jeeps beat the rain, beat the oncoming darkness, and defeated the visiting Federal Hocking Lancers.
The latter, well that was basically one fell swoop as well.
That’s because the Jeeps, in a marathon for a fifth inning, scored all eight of their runs to erase Federal Hocking’s fourth-inning pair —and proceeded to capture a Division IV baseball sectional championship by that final count of 8-2.
For the now 16-11 Jeeps, it is their second consecutive sectional title —and the sixth under head coach Ryan McClintic.
The others were 2014, 2015, 2017, 2019 and 2022 —as the Ohio High School Athletic Association unfortunately canceled the 2020 campaign because of the coronavirus threat.
But the third-seeded Jeeps just got this one in —on its regularly-scheduled date of Tuesday, and before the clock struck eight and darkness was rapidly descending upon South Webster.
It rained throughout the South Webster immediate area, and while other Division IV sectional finals found their way postponed to Wednesday, this one started —and only 50 minutes late in fact.
However, if you wanted South Webster to score, you had to wait until the fifth —when the Jeeps sent a dozen batters to the dish, and fed off not one, not two, but three Lancer pitchers for their eight runs.
That’s correct, it was a wild, weird, and wacky Webster inning —in which the Jeeps just literally walked their way to their lead.
In the inning, South Webster combined two singles, a passed ball, five walks, one hit batter, two Lancer wild pitches, a 6-4 fielder’s choice, a 6-3 RBI-groundout, and oh — last but certainly not least a Brady Bond balk for their eight runs.
The balk accounted for the eighth, as the opening seven were all earned —and there was one Lancer fielding error that didn’t factor into the scoring.
Four of the five walks were right in a row —as actually all six free passes came consecutive.
McClintic commented of course on the fateful fifth inning —taking advantage of the Lancers’ struggles on the mound.
Against Lancer starter Cody Mettler, the Jeeps left the bases loaded in the second after two hits and a hit batter, stranded runners at second and third in the third following a single and a walk, and left one aboard at second in the fourth following a Tristan Belford single and a Dylan Shupert stolen base.
“One thing we always say, you don’t complain about victories. However you have to get the job done. If the pitcher is struggling to throw strikes, then our job is to make him pay for it. We didn’t do a very good job of that earlier in the year. I felt like we helped out a lot of pitchers that were throwing out of the zone. The second half of the year, we’ve been a lot better at that. Tonight, that fifth inning especially, we were disciplined at the plate. There’s a lot ways to win the game, and you don’t always have to pound out 15 hits or make it look pretty,” said the coach. “The conditions were rough for both teams, and we barreled up a lot of balls early. Had a lot of runners on early, and just didn’t get rewarded for it. Kudos for our guys for not panicking or making excuses in a high-stakes situation and just believing and making it happen in that fifth inning. It doesn’t always have to happen in the first or second.”
What exactly happened in that fifth you ask?
Against Mettler, Hunter Barnard singled to lead off — and advanced to second on a passed ball and to third on a wild pitch.
The next four Jeeps —Jaren Lower, fellow senior Robert Martin, Jacob McGraw and fellow freshman Brycin McClintic —all walked, as McClintic drew his walk off Lancer reliever Glen Wilkes.
Wilkes then hit Brody Perkins with a pitch and walked fellow freshman Benaiah Andrews, before Bond relieved him after only facing three Jeeps.
Belford hit into the 6-4 fielder’s choice which crossed McClintic —as Barnard, Lower and Martin had scored on the free passes prior, with McGraw racing home on a Wilkes wild pitch.
Connor Bender, the other Jeep senior, then singled to plate Perkins —as Barnard returned to bat, and grounded to shortstop scoring Shupert who was running for Andrews.
Finally, Bond was called for his balk, bringing Bender in for the eighth and final Jeep run.
As it turned out, those eight points was more than enough run support for the left-handed standout ace Martin.
While struggling some with his control amid the rain and wet grounds, as the 7-14 Lancers drew four walks with a pair of wild pitches, Martin still struck out 14 —including the side in the third and once again around a walk in the sixth.
In the fourth, Martin fanned four —as Wilkes reached following a dropped third strike which resulted in an Iden Miller run scoring on a passed ball.
Three of Federal Hocking’s five hits came in the fourth, when Mettler reached on an infield hit that dribbled its way between third base and home plate —and Miller mashing a double to right center to score Mettler.
Rylan Poston had two infield hits for the Lancers, including with Wilkes aboard in that frame, but Martin got his ninth strikeout to get out of that jam —and the Lancers leading just 2-0.
Martin faced four batters apiece in innings one, five, six and seven —and saw the minimum three in the second and third, as Andrews and Martin picked Poston off at first in the second.
Martin stranded six runners, including Ashton Lancaster leading off the seventh with a single — as the Jeeps turned a textbook 4-6-3 double play with McClintic (second baseman) and Barnard (shortstop) to end the game.
“Robert was really good on the mound tonight, despite some struggles with his control. For someone that throws multiple pitches for strikes, he was limited tonight somewhat with his repertoire. The ball was wet early on, and the conditions definitely affected his confidence throwing certain pitches out there. Once the mound got broken in later in the game and the rain had stopped and dried up, he got back to who he is,” said Coach McClintic. “He is not a young guy. He has been doing this a long time for us in a lot of big games. He believes in himself because he’s done it.”
The Jeeps had eight hits —including Andrews going 2-for-3 and Perkins poking a second-inning double.
South Webster’s roster is primarily made up of freshmen and three sophomores —with the senior trio of Bender, Lower and Martin.
Coach McClintic said winning sectional championships with an underclassmen-centric roster, even against an 11th-seed at home and amid the rain, isn’t always easy —but is indeed rewarding.
“We have started up to eight underclassmen this year at times. We have a lot of young guys that you hope by the end of the year they become more like sophomores or juniors,” he said. “I think we’re starting to see that. They’ve really given us a spark this year to go along with our three seniors. Tonight we beat the rain and the darkness, we won the game, so kudos to the kids. It was a true team effort today to get this game in and get this win.”
The Jeeps will return to the Division IV district semifinals —set for Saturday night against sixth-seeded Meigs Eastern at Chillicothe’s VA Memorial Stadium.
First pitch, as the contest is the final district semifinal of four on Saturday, is anticipated around 8 p.m.
McClintic talked about the Eagles, which defeated Paint Valley 14-4 in another sectional championship on Tuesday.
“Coach (Chris) Stewart is a good guy and they (Eagles) will be well-coached and ready. We’ve seen a lot of good competition in our league (Southern Ohio Conference Division II), but Eastern isn’t going to be intimated by us just because we play a tougher schedule,” he said. “They are going to come out and give us their best shot, so we have to be ready to go.”
* * *
Federal Hocking 000 200 0 —2 5 2
South Webster 000 080 X —8 8 1
FHHS: Cody Mettler 4+IP, 4R, 4ER, 1HB, 4BB, 5H, 1WP, 2K, 23BF; Glen Wilkes 0IP, 3R, 3ER, 1HB, 2BB, 0H, 1WP, 0K, 3BF; Brady Bond 2IP, 1R, 0ER, 0HB, 1BB, 3H, 0WP, 1K, 11BF
SWHS: Robert Martin 7IP, 2R, 1ER, 0HB, 4BB, 5H, 2WP, 14K, 29BF
W — Robert Martin; L Cody Mettler