Top-seeded Lehman put pitching, timely hitting, and airtight defense together for an impressive opening tournament win over Botkins.
Sidney – Max Schutt could not contain his smile. After all, high school baseball players dream of days like this, and Max, along with his Lehman Catholic teammates, had just had their day.
The top-seed Cavaliers (19-3) did have a day Wednesday, knocking Botkins out of the Division IV sectional tournament with an impressive 10-3 win that showcased just how good a given baseball team can be, regardless of record, when you get good pitching.
Junior Parker Riley took the hill for coach Dave King and pitched his team into the fifth inning, surrendering three runs on just three hits, with four strikeouts and four walks. It wasn’t his best day, but it was good enough.
“No, he wasn’t at his best, not like he’d pitched previously for us this year,” said Lehman assistant coach Bill Bosway. “Parker obviously didn’t have his best control because he rarely ever walks anyone. Today he had four in four innings. Guys were looking at each other in the dugout trying to figure out what was wrong.”
If it shocked anyone in the field behind him, it didn’t seem to matter. The Cavaliers put together an effort of offensive support and confident defense, the likes of which coach Dave King preaches on a daily basis…but the likes of which high school coaches rarely see. Wednesday he got an eyeful.
With the game scoreless, Lehman came to the plate in the bottom of the third inning and scored four times, in thunder and lightning fashion, highlighted by a three-run home run by senior catcher Max Schutt. Picking on a 2-1 fastball from Botkins pitcher Todd Schour, he lifted a majestic shot down the left field line that rode the crest of a mild breeze just inside, and well beyond, the 325 foot marker at the foul pole. 3-0, Lehman.
But before the appreciative crowd could take their seats again, shortstop Dylan Arnold reprised that shot with one of his own, an even longer bolt to left center, a line drive beyond the fence. 4-0, Lehman.
It seemed to set off a feeding frenzy. Centerfielder Stephen Monnin followed with a line drive down the left field line for a double, but was left stranded when second baseman Tyler Lachey grounded out for the third out of the inning.
Botkins took advantage of Riley’s command issues to score a run in the top of the fourth.
But Lehman blew it off like dirt on home plate. Brandon Barhorst started off the bottom of th fourth with his second hit in as many innings, Nate Bosway was walked, and Schutt again lit up Schour with screaming drive to the power alley in left center for an RBI double. Before the final out could be recorded the Cavaliers has posted another four-spot…8-1.
Botkins came right back to score in the fifth, when King made a pitching change, taking Riley down for lefthander Nate Bosway, who for all intents put the choke hold on any ideas the Trojans might have had regarding a comeback. Bosway pitched the final 2 2/3 innings without allowing a hit, and struck out five of the eight outs he retired.
But to ice the day for Max Schutt, he came back for one final at bat in the sixth and dropped a single into center field for his third marker of the day…three hits, four RBIs, three runs scored.
“It was definitely fun,” said the Cavs’ catcher. “It was good to get back into a groove like that and the home run definitely sparked us. And when Dylan followed me with his home run it made a pretty good night for us. I’ve struggled a little bit lately, but today I got some good pitches to hit and I tried to be aggressive and just put a drive on some of them.”
Dylan Arnold’s day was almost as good…a home run, single, a walk, RBI, and two runs scored.
“I missed a good pitch on my first at bat and I told (coach) King that I’d get him the next time. I got one right down the middle and I drove it out. But we’re going to stay hungry. We came out that way today and we want to go as far as we can.”
Which raises, of course, the $64,000 dollar question at this juncture of the season…how many times CAN King and his Cavaliers duplicate Wednesday’s effort? If the byword is “pitching”, how many Parker Rileys and Nate Bosways can they call upon?
“Well, Parker’s been great for us all year,” said Nate’s dad, Bill, who tutors the Cavaliers’ pitchers. “He’s won like 9 or 10 times, but Nate has been fully cleared now from his Tommy John surgery and he’s beginning to get stretched out to where we can go to him more. He doesn’t have his full velocity back yet but he throws strikes and that can take you a long way in D-IV. Beyond those two Stephen Monnin can pitch and give us some innings. If we have to go much deeper than that it could become a challenge for us, but hopefully it won’t.”
Lehman won it with their 10 runs, 10 hits, committed but one error, and stranded 8 runners.
They were aggressive on the bases, stealing five, and continually putting pressure on the Botkins defense to make plays.
Meanwhile, King’s Cavs flashed plenty of leather of their own, including a pivotal play in the third inning after Botkins had loaded the bases on a pair of Riley walks and an error by third baseman Brandon Barhorst. With one out the Trojans attempted a suicide squeeze play. But hitter Jared Goubeaux bunted the ball out in front of the plate and too close to the mound. Riley swooped the ball up in one motion and fired a strike to Schutt at the plate to nip the runner from third base by a half step.
“That was a big play,” said King later. “It was a experienced play. Parker makes a great play on that ball and we get the out. Otherwise, they score and extend the inning and the complexion of the game becomes completely different.”
Motivated by that very play perhaps, an inning later King’s offense erupted.
“Max and Dylan were big-game players for us today,” he added. “Max is a senior, he does a lot of stuff for us, he handles the pitchers, and he’s been beat up all year by the pitches in the dirt that he’s had to block We rely on our seniors, like any team does, and today he gave us what we needed. We’ve had a good year, and obviously we’re going to miss our seniors. We’ve taken a pretty good hit the past couple of years with the kids we’ve lost, and a lot of baseball IQ.”
The Cavaliers move on with Wednesday win to play Russia next, another team on the rise with a recent surge at the time of the year when it matters most.
No surprises here, they know each other well and will play next week. Dave King will have his rested pair of aces, and a rested Max Schutt, for that matter. The bumps and bruises get a few days off.
Can they do it again? Well, the coach would probably like to bottle what he saw on Wednesday, just in case. Everybody hit. Everybody made plays. And they got good pitching.
Cliche’ without a doubt…but it was more than fit for “the King”.