PORTSMOUTH — The Titans tried on Friday for upsetting the apple cart in the Southern Ohio Conference Division I baseball championship chase.
Unfortunately for Notre Dame, against Ironton St. Joseph, it only amounted two total hits —and thus the Flyers’ first-place SOC I standing alongside Clay still stands.
The Flyers found a run apiece in innings three and six, and Jackson Rowe pitched a complete-game two-hit shutout gem, as St. Joseph blanked the Titans 2-0 to hand Notre Dame its third SOC I loss within a week.
Thus, the Titans’ bid for an SOC I championship is over — as Notre Dame dropped to 8-6 and 3-5, thanks to Friday’s defeat coupled with a 16-2 loss last Monday at Clay and a 5-1 setback on Thursday at Symmes Valley .
Meanwhile, St. Joseph remained undefeated atop the SOC I with Clay, as the Flyers moved to 10-1 —and to 6-0 in the division.
Clay, with a 12-1 win over Western on Friday, forged to 7-0 in the league.
The Flyers and Panthers play twice this week, as Symmes Valley only has one loss in the league at 7-1.
As for the Titans, they are now squarely in the middle of the SOC I pack — thanks to a lack of run production and hitting the baseball this past week.
Against St. Joe ace Rowe, who retired the Titans 1-2-3 in innings one and six, Notre Dame’s lone hits were an infield single by Dylan Seison in the third and a Reagan Lester single to centerfield in the seventh.
Alex Cassidy was hit by a pitch in the fourth, as the Titans’ five other baserunners reached on four Flyer errors and a fourth-frame 6-4 fielder’s choice.
Rowe, in facing the Titans three times through, struck out four batters — and stranded six.
And, Notre Dame didn’t take advantage of excellent opportunities to score, leaving runners on the corners in the third, a runner at third in the second and at second in the fifth — and men at first in the fourth and last.
For Notre Dame coach Dan Cassidy, hitting has been the problem.
“I consider ourselves a team near the top, but our hitting has to come a long way still,” he said. “It’s very disappointing. Nobody works on hitting as a team any harder than what we do. We hit before every game for 45 minutes and do a lot of tee work. But we have to translate those swings from the building out here to the field. We’re struggling right now. When you hold a team like St. Joe to two runs, you have to like your chances. But we left six guys on base after leaving 10 runners on last night (Thursday at Symmes Valley). You just can’t do that. It hurts. We thought we were in a good spot, but that’s just the way baseball goes sometimes. We need to catch a break.”
Perhaps the Titans’ best chance for those breaks came in the fifth and sixth stanzas, when in the fifth Lester first and Seison second reached on errors.
But Lester was caught stealing second, and with Seison stealing second base, Rowe induced a groundout to third to end the threat.
“We get Reagan Lester on with an error, and our plan was if he got on, we were going to fake bunt and steal the first pitch. And it worked, but Reagan for some reason pop-slid and we made an out. The ground ball Dylan (Seison) hit would have scored him,” said Cassidy. “The plan would have worked, but we just didn’t execute.”
In the sixth, Notre Dame’s Ethan Kammer conked a hard-hit ball to the outfield, but Brady Medinger in right field foiled that bid by sliding feet-first and making a nice catch.
“The kid (Rowe) who threw for St. Joe tonight really threw well,” said Cassidy. “He is a good pitcher and is good at what he does. It was a good pitching battle.”
Caleb Nichols, Notre Dame’s ace, indeed pitched well enough to win — scattering five hits including a two-out single to center by Jackson Rowe in the first and walking only Elijah Rowe with two outs in the second.
Nichols also faced the Flyers three times through, and struck out seven —as the game flew by in only an hour and 45 minutes.
In the third, St. Joe took a 1-0 lead when Medinger singled to lead off, stole second and third, and scored on an RBI-groundout to the shortstop Seison by Matt Sheridan.
In the sixth, Sheridan singled with one out to left-center, stole second, and scored on a Jackson Rowe RBI-single to centerfield.
In the seventh, Nichols escaped a serious jam — when Elijah Rowe reached on a two-out error and Max Weber wound up with an infield hit.
The baserunners moved up a base on a wild pitch, but Nichols left them there — with the Titans still trailing 2-0.
Unfortunately for Notre Dame, Lester was erased in the seventh when Jackson Rowe induced a game-ending fielder’s choice.
“This was the way baseball should be played, but we want to be on the other side of this. We got another good pitching performance from Caleb, but this is another tough loss. Really disappointed in our hitting. I really thought we would hit better,” said Cassidy. “We’ll get back at it, and we’ll change our approach and see what we can come up with.”
* * *
Ironton St. Joe 001 001 0 —2 5 4
Notre Dame 000 000 0 —0 2 1
ISJ: Jackson Rowe 7IP, 0R, 0ER, 2H, 0BB, 1HB, 4K, 27BF
ND: Caleb Nichols 7IP, 2R, 2ER, 5H, 1BB, 0HB, 7K, 27BF
W — Jackson Rowe; L — Caleb Nichols
Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @BoggsSports © 2021 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved