A sophomore hitting ninth in the lineup ignited a game-tying rally, then drove in the winning run with a walk-off single as Lehman stunned the Russia Raiders in the sectional finals.
Piqua – Amazingly, both head coaches had the same thought after Lehman’s stunning 7-6 walk-off win over the Russia Raiders in the D-IV sectional finals at Hardman Field.
“That’s baseball!” exclaimed Lehman head coach Dave King. “I have been on both sides. Russia is a great team and they had things rolling, but our kids just never gave in and the bottom of our order really came through.”
“That’s baseball,” echoed a somber Russia head coach Kevin Phlipot. “It happens in a heartbeat, and you don’t have to be the best team to win a game. We missed chances to add on runs early in the game, and when they got going, we couldn’t stop it. Give Lehman credit, they did their jobs and never gave up.”
The Raiders, winners of 8 straight heading into the game, dominated the Cavaliers early, scoring all six of their runs with two out. Connor Monnin scored on a throwing error by Lehman catcher Max Schutt in the top of the first to give the Raiders a 1-0 lead.
Nate Bosway, making his 6th appearance on the mound for the Cavaliers after Tommy John surgery, settled down in the second, striking out the side. He retired the first two Raiders in the third before disaster struck.
Bosway hit Zach Sherman, and Jonah Counts followed with a single. Hunter Cohee then singled to center, scoring Sherman, and Bryant McCarty doubled over the third base bag for another run. When Cavalier shortstop Dylan Arnold threw away Jared Goubeaux’s ground ball, two more runs scored and Russia had a 5-0 lead.
That was the end of Bosway’s day on the mound, and he later had to leave the game altogether. He was in tears and had his arm in a sling as he was greeted by well-wishers after the game.
Bosway’s injury dampened the Cavaliers post-game celebration.
“We thought he was ready, and obviously he wasn’t,” said King, shaking his head. “That’s kind of on us, but he’s played the whole season in the field and had thrown 15 innings for us late in the year. You second guess yourself. I just feel real bad right now for Nate, because he worked so hard to get back on the mound this season.”
Lehman got on the board in the bottom of the third on a run-scoring single by Parker Riley, but the Raiders scored another two-out run in the fourth on Zach Sherman’s infield single. That made it 6-1 and that’s where it stayed until the Cavaliers came to bat in the bottom of the 6th.
“They scored all 6 of their runs with two outs,” King said, shaking his head again. “We just needed to get something going, their pitcher got tired, and we took advantage of it. And I can’t say enough about the bottom of the order.”
The Cavaliers potent offense had been stymied through the first five innings by Russia right-hander Jonah Counts, who had allowed just one run on 4 hits. But the senior seemed to tire after throwing 76 pitches, and walked Arnold and Stephen Monnin to begin the 6th. After Ian Smith bounced into a fielders choice, Goubeaux tried to pick off Smith at second and threw the ball into center, allowing Arnold to score.
Tyler Lachey, the Cavaliers sophomore second baseman hitting ninth, then singled to right to make it 6-3. Brice Kennedy. a freshman with all of 5 at-bats this season, singled home a run, as did Riley. Schutt drove in the tying run with a sacrifice fly and it was 6-6.
Riley, a junior right-hander unbeaten in ten decisions, relieved Bosway in the third and went the rest of the way, allowing one run on 6 hits. He struck-out the side in the top of the 7th, setting the stage for Lehman’s game winning rally.
“I just wanted to keep my team in the game,” Riley explained. “I am not an overpowering pitcher, so I just wanted then to hit the ball and let my defense work. We didn’t give up, and once we tied it up, I knew we were going to win.”
Monnin led off the bottom of the 7th with a walk, and went to second on a perfectly placed sacrifice bunt by Ian smith. Owen Smith walked on a full count pitch, and Lachey drove a 1-0 fastball to left-center, sending Monnin home with the winning run and touching off a joyous celebration for the Cavaliers.
Lachey, who is hitting .374 on the season, talked about the last at bat.
“I was just looking for a fastball. When I got it, I just swung hard. I knew I hit it well, because I didn’t feel it leave the bat.
“You dream about that situation as a kid. I was a little nervous, but since there was only one out, it wasn’t too bad.”
The bottom of the order that King talked about? Stephen Monnin, Ian Smith, Owen Smith and Lachey combined for three hits, four walks, and four runs scored.
“I’m incredibly proud of this team and the way they played all year,” stated Phlipot. “This is very disappointing. It really hurts right now. But you have to look at the broader picture. They came through all year. This was a big moment today and it just wasn’t our time.
“Our schedule tested us all year and we had won our last eight ballgames. We knew our opponent very well, and we were confident. But the game came down to someone making a play. They did and we didn’t.”
“It’s a great win, but it definitely hurts to lose Nate,” Riley said in reference to his fellow pitcher. “We are going to go as far as we can and do it for him.”
The Cavaliers, who will face Tri-Village in the District finals Friday at Centerville, had four runs on 8 hits and 2 errors. They also took advantage of 7 walks in the final 2 innings. The Raiders had 6 runs on 12 hits and committed 1 error. The Cavaliers stranded 8 base-runners, while Russia left 9 men on base.
“The whole season has been remarkable, with basically one pitcher,” King said. “We have had other guys throw, you know, but we are where we are because we hit. In the end, that’s what won for us today, our hitting. And I can’t say enough about Parker Riley, both all season and today. He came in and did what we needed him to do.
“Honestly, we are in trouble now because of our pitching situation. But we’ll go into Friday and take it inning by inning. But this is a big win for us. It’s a big win for our team and a big win for our program.”
Call it what you want…remarkable, improbable, amazing, unbelievable…the Cavaliers season marches on, because –that’s baseball!