ELIDA — St. Marys outfielder Tristan Becker dove headfirst in shallow center to snag a quick-sinking liner to end the bottom of the fourth inning, stranding a pair of baserunners and denying Kenton its first and game-tying run.
St. Marys starting pitcher Codie Deaton didn’t need much help in Saturday’s tournament opener, but he found it in plays on defense like Becker's and in the bats of his Roughrider teammates.
Deaton struck out seven in a three-hit shutout on the mound and St. Marys’ offense wore down Kenton’s pitching in a 4-0 Division III sectional semifinal win at Ed Sandy Field.
“Codie pitched an excellent game and I thought our guys played well,” St. Marys head coach Dave Huber said. “Obviously we had a lot of one-run innings, but it all adds up in the end.”
Deaton allowed only three baserunners to get to second base all game and gave the Roughriders a tournament victory and set up another match-up with their Auglaize County Rivals.
“This was probably one of the best games we’ve played all season in understanding the game and getting things done,” Huber said.
The Roughriders now advance to take on defending state runner-up Wapakoneta on Tuesday at Ed Sandy Field in Elida at 5 p.m. The winner will advance to the Bluffton district on May 23. Wapakoneta won the regular season match-up 2-0.
Austin James, Mason Gross and Dirk Fenwick all drove in runs for St. Marys as the Roughriders’ offense struck one run at at time with single runs in the first, fifth, sixth and seventh innings. St. Marys used a patient attack that drew eight walks and made Kenton starting pitcher Noah Furbush throw a lot of pitches early.
“That was the plan coming in,” Huber said. “We knew he’d pound the strike zone, but we also knew we had to make him throw pitches.”
St. Marys put up a better offensive performance against Furbush than the WBL match-up earlier in the season, when the southpaw struck out 10 Roughriders in seven innings while giving up just one earned run.
St. Marys scored just one run and struck out four times in the top of the first inning, but the Roughriders made Kenton’s big lefthander work. The Riders worked counts, fouled off pitch-after-pitch and got a run with a Mason Gross two-out RBI single up the middle that scored Nathan Wilker, who reached on a wild pitch on a third strike. Wilker stole second and came home on Gross’ hard-hit grounder over second base.
Both teams traded zeroes on the scoreboard for the next four innings. Becker’s catch in center field kept the Wildcats off the board. After two were out, Kenton’s Logan Nichols singled in the hole on the left side of the infield. A pair of wild pitches allowed Nichols to scamper to third base. After Caleb Halsey walked, Conner Jones flared the ball into shallow left center, where Becker swooped in.
St. Marys’ offense fed off that energy, adding a run in the top of the fifth. Nathan Vogel singled up the middle and went to second when the Kenton outfielder couldn’t handle the ball. Austin James then bunted down the first base line for an infield single. The throw to first sailed wide, allowing Vogel to come home for a 2-0 St. Marys lead.
St. Marys scored another run in the sixth on a James sacrifice fly. Becker double into the left field corner, pinch hitter Zach Wilker walked and Vogel followed with another walk to load the bases with one out. That set up James for his fly to medium center to make it 3-0 in favor of the Riders.
The Roughriders put the game out of reach in the seventh with another single run, this one unearned. Deaton reached on a one-out error, Isaac Fitzgerald walked. After a strikeout to get the second out of the inning, Kenton reliever Matt Bahr appeared to get out of the inning when Fenwick rolled over on a pitch to third base. The throw went wide and Deaton wheeled around third base to score for a 4-0 lead.