Barnesville Advances to Division II State Baseball Tournament
LANCASTER — It has been nearly two decades since Barnesville made its last appearance in the state baseball tournament. The wait is over.
A six-run fourth inning and some clutch relief work by Gavin Carpenter lifted the Shamrocks (24-7) to a 10-7 victory Saturday afternoon over fifth-ranked Minford (26-3-1) in the Division III, Region 11 championship game on the artificial surface at sun-baked Beavers Field. It is their first regional title since 2004.
With the win, Barnesville, which finished the season in a tie for 17th in the final Ohio High School Baseball Coaches Association poll, advances to the Final 4 at Akron’s Canal Park. It will play Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy (21-8) at 10 a.m. Thursday. The Eagles defeated Cincinnati Country Day, 5-1, in the Region 12 finals.
“We told the team this morning that this was going to be Minford’s No. 2 pitcher. It wasn’t going to be a 3-2 game, we’re going to have to score runs,” Barnesville coach D.J. Butler said. “They answered the bell.”
The Shamrocks trailed 4-2 entering the top of the fourth but quickly changed that with five hits and a trio of base-on-balls, with two of those coming with the bases full of runners.
“The six-run inning was even bigger because we gave up the lead the inning before that,” Butler said.
“Just like always, these kids are resilient. They said they were going to score, and they did.”
Logan Shepherd, the hero of Friday’s marathon 3-2 win over Fredericktown in 12 innings, singled leading off. With one out, C.J. Hannahs singled and No. 9 hitter Spencer Bliss bunted for a hit to load the bases. Ayden Hannahs and Jeremy Hunkler drew consecutive full-count walks from Falcons reliever Cole Borland to even things before Edwards ripped the first pitch he saw down the left field line for a double that scored Shepherd and C.J. Hannahs. Carpenter followed with a shot along the same line as Bliss and Edwards touched the plate, with Edwards’ run being the eventual game-winner.
“I just wanted to put the ball in play and see what happened,” Carpenter said of his two-run single that capped the middle-of-of-the-game outburst.
Carpenter, who took over for Edwards with one out in the third, retired 11 of 14 Falcons from the third through the sixth innings while keeping them off the scoreboard. He earned the win with five punchouts as he kept pounding the zone with first-pitches strikes. He also walked a pair.
“That’s all I was trying to do,” Carpenter said of getting ahead of the hitters. “I just wanted to make them put the ball in play because I know my defense is really good behind me.”
He finished with 80 offerings to the plate, with 51 being strikes. The junior righty retired Minford in order in the fourth and sixth frames.
“Putting up a zero after scoring the six runs was even bigger. I think that kind of took the wind out of their sails,” Butler said. “It gave us some more confidence and I think it actually allowed Gavin to kind of settle down a little on the mound.”
Edwards fanned two and walked one in two-plus innings of work. He needed 49 pitches (31 strikes) before giving way to Carpenter with a runner on third and one out. After allowing a run-scoring single to Matthew Kisner, who then stole second and came around on a two-out single by Branson Alley.
After watching the Green guys give him a cushion in run-support, Carpenter did his thing on the mound in the bottom of the inning as he retired the Falcons in order for the first time in the contest. He also did it in the sixth before giving up three window-dressing tallies in the seventh.
“I think we have four pitchers that are capable of beating anybody,” Butler said. “When one of them doesn’t have their best stuff, there’s another ready to step in and take over. Jake didn’t have his best command today. He gutted it out as long as he could go and Gavin was really clutch for us.”
In addition to Carpenter’s single and double that produced three runs, Barnesville also got multi-hit games from Shepherd and Bliss, both of which had two one-base raps.
“Spencer is like a second leadoff hitter for us in the No. 9 hole. That’s why he is there,” Butler said. “He’s fast and he’s always capable of getting on base.”
Bliss relishes the role.
“It’s really important being the No. 9 hitter. If you don’t have that depth in that spot, you don’t have a chance to get bunts down or things like that,” Bliss said. “It’s like being a second leadoff hitter. I get on base and Ayden usually knocks me in. That’s really a free run there.”
Barnesville’s first two runs came in the second inning on a bases-loaded free pass to Bliss and an error. Carpenter singled in one in the sixth and another crossed via another Minford miscue.