CHILLICOTHE — Over the course of the 2018 season, the Minford Falcons’ baseball program have put together sensational performances and special memories that will forever be remembered by those who witnessed them, regardless of how the season ends.
And while Minford, as all teams do from time to time, needed some special magic to happen to come out on top, Saturday afternoon’s contest against the Rock Hill Redmen needed no such magic — because the Falcons, as they have throughout the entire year, played in a flawless manner when it was needed the most.
Another complete game gem from Elijah Vogelsong-Lewis — where the freshman struck out six batters and only allowed six hits in all — along with a critical bases-clearing double from Luke Lindamood in the third inning allowed Minford to claim a 6-1 victory over Rock Hill in the Division III, Chillicothe I District Finals on Saturday afternoon at VA Memorial Stadium.
While the win certainly came in a fashion that wasn’t as breathtaking as the Falcons’ 3-2 victory over Crooksville in eight innings just two days prior, it didn’t subdue, in any fashion, the overall sweetness or the victory or how well Minford played against a quality Rock Hill team that had been ranked in the OHSBCA and PBR Ohio State Polls throughout much of the year.
“We had a scouting report on them, and we knew that with Elijah on the mound, we had a really good chance,” Hopper said. “We knew that he was going to go out there on the mound and throw well for us, because he has all year, and he continued to throw well today. He threw well; the offense was clicking today, the defense played very well, and it was a good overall win.”
After both units went down without much of a hitch in the first inning, Minford quickly took control of the contest with its play in the second and third innings at the plate.
With one out in the former frame, Nathan McCormick got things rolling at the plate as the shortstop ultimately doubled to left field. The quick double, seemingly, looked like it was going to be all for naught as McCormick, who was sent home on a two-out single by Payton Davis, looked to be dead-to-rights on a 7-1-2 throw to the plate. The ball, however, was dropped, and McCormick ended up scoring as Davis moved to second on the dropped ball at the plate.
The craziness in the inning, however, didn’t stop there.
On a wild pitch, Davis advanced to third on a wild pitch, then scored on a dropped third strike as Bailey Rowe advanced down to first base on the dropped ball. Rowe was gunned down trying to advance to second base, but Minford was well on its way to cementing the 2018 season as a special one with its 2-0 advantage after two innings of play.
“Our offense is based on our speed, and we like to try to get guys moving a little bit,” Hopper said. “Today, we did a good job of that. It’s easy to get your runners moving when you’re having a good day at the plate as a team, because you know that guys are going to come up behind them and obtain big hits. They did that for us today. Our middle of the lineup guys produced in the manner that their positions in the lineup warrant, and our leadoff and bottom of the order guys were able to get on and move runners. It was just a really solid offensive effort from the team today.”
In the third inning of play, Minford proceeded to show why its 2018 season has been a special one as its entire hitting lineup got going in a major way. After Vogelsong-Lewis and Brayden Davis drew back-to-back wins, Darius Jordan dropped a bunt single down the first base line that everyone ended up being safe on, and Lindamood followed by ripping a double to left field that sailed all the way to the wall, which cleared the bases in the process. Lindamood then moved over to third on Ethan Lauder’s single and then scored on a wild pitch to increase the Falcons’ advantage to a 6-0 tally in the frame.
“All year long, we’ve known that Luke can step up in that situation and produce runs for us,” Hopper said. “With runners on, that’s his situation. We know that when we do have runners on, he’s going to come up clutch for us and hit a nice sacrifice fly or hit a ball hard somewhere. And it was really a great effort by the entire team. The team, as a whole, produced at the plate. It was a good win all the way around.”
From there, the contest proved to be all about Vogelsong-Lewis and his effectiveness on the hill. After allowing just one hit through three innings of play, the freshman had to work his way around trouble over the remaining four frames as Rock Hill put two or more runners on base over the final quartet of innings. However, even after giving up an RBI single in the fourth to Logan Hankins and a sacrifice fly RBI to Seth Nichols in the fifth, the freshman responded with poise by recording consecutive outs in three of the final four frames to stay in control throughout. Lauder aided his fellow pitching hand’s cause with a triple to left in the bottom of the fifth frame, and scored on a single back up the middle by McCormick to seal the deal.
With the victory, Minford will play archrival Valley on Thursday evening in the Division III, Region 11 Semifinals at VA Memorial Stadium at 5 p.m. The winner of Thursday’s contest plays the following evening at Ohio State University for a chance to advance to Huntington Park.
“Valley’s playing exceptional at the moment,” Hopper said. “It’s hard to play a team that has a lot of momentum, and they definitely, definitely have that. We’ve got to really come out and play our game.”
Reach Kevin Colley at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930 OR on Twitter @KColleyPDT