Falcons win sectional on timely defense: Minford tops West 7-4 for 8th straight crown


MINFORD — A solid defense backed up a gutsy performance by Minford senior pitcher Noah Martin, as the seventh-seeded Minford Falcons knocked off West 7-4 on Thursday to claim a Division III baseball sectional title at Minford.

The Falcons will play sixth-seeded Oak Hill on Tuesday night at Ohio University in Athens.

Martin went the distance and gave up four runs on four hits with nine strikeouts in the win.

West scored all four runs in the top of the seventh, but Martin struck out the side to notch the sectional championship.

“I wasn’t worried one bit in the last inning,” Minford Coach Eli Daniels said. “I had faith in my seniors out there and I have faith in my infielders. No worries at all. I thought Noah pitched a good game. He was in control most the game and got himself out of the jam in the seventh.”

Martin started the game off by fanning the top of the order for the Senators to set the tone.

He got into a rhythm on the mound, and didn’t take much time in between pitches.

“I just try to get in a groove as much as I can,” he said. “That’s always been our thing — to have a big tempo. I’ve been that way my whole life. I get in a groove and keep moving. That’s how I like it.”

Minford (17-7) scored three runs in the first thanks in part to three errors by 18th-seeded West — as Carson Cronin, Grant Wheeler and Aodhan Queen all scored for Minford.

The Falcons plated two more runs in the second inning.

Wheeler connected for a single that knocked in Cronin and Cole Borland for the 5-0 lead.

Cronin finished the game 2-for-3 at the plate with one RBI and two runs scored.

His defense also kicked into gear in the top of the third — when he gunned down West’s Isaak Tipton at the plate from right field for the third out and to stop a potential big inning for the Senators.

“I saw the ball coming lightly right at me,” Cronin said. “I knew if I threw it hard, I could get it there in time.”

West threatened again in the top of the fifth, and had bases loaded with two outs, when Rhyan Queen snagged a line drive at first base — that would have scored at least two runs for the final out of the inning.

“We had to stay focused because they had bases loaded,” Queen said. “It was a tight situation. The ball was hit hard, came right me and I was able to grab it.”

Daniels said those two defensive plays were turning points.

“The right side of the infield came to play tonight,” he said. “Ryan snagged one probably 95 (mph) off the bat and Carson threw an absolute dime to J.D. Matiz at the plate and got us out of that inning. Those two plays ended up being game changers.”

Minford added two insurance runs in the bottom of the sixth inning — when Cronin knocked in Borland, and Adam Crank scored off a balk by West pitcher Trevor Fike.

West (12-14) scored four in the top of the seventh inning.

Martin walked three batters, beaned one and gave up a double and a two-run single.

Isaak Tipton and Jakob Tipton scored — along with Wilson Kegley and Levi Pickelsimer for West in the seventh.

Fike was tagged with the pitching loss, giving seven runs on nine hits with three strikeouts.

“The kids came into today focused,” Daniels added. “We had a great two days of practice before this game. They came in locked in and stuck to their approach. They saw lots of pitches and got their pitch. And when they got their pitch, they drove it. Just really happy with the performance.”

The Falcons’ 18th all-time sectional championship was their eighth in a row —and the first for the first-year head coach Daniels.

Minford’s meeting against Oak Hill, the third such matchup between the Falcons and Oaks this season, is set for Tuesday at 7 p.m.

The two teams split their season series as part of Southern Ohio Conference Division II play.

* * *

West 000 000 4 — 4 4 5

Minford 320 002 X —7 9 0

WP —Noah Martin; LP —Trevor Fike

West hitting: I Tipton: 0-1 R; Fike: 2-4; J Tipton: 2-4 R: Kegley: 1-3 R: Pickelsimer: 1-3 R; Coleman 0-1; Rapp: 0-1; Cornell: 1-2 2RBI; Windsor: 0-4; Cooper 0-3

Minford hitting: Cronin: 2-3 2R RBI; Crank: 2-3 R (SAC); Book: 1-4; Wheeler: 1-3 R RBI (SAC); A Queen: 0-1 R; ; Matiz: 1-3; Thacker: 0-3; R Queen: 1-3; Borland: 2-3 2R

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