The Springboro baseball team is right where veteran coach Mark Pelfrey envisioned the Panthers: In a Division I regional semifinal.
And Springboro will be joined by another Greater Western Ohio Conference rep, Butler, in Thursday’s doubleheader at the University of Cincinnati’s Marge Schott Stadium.
That makes it a rare D-I regional field in which two of the four teams are from the GWOC. It’s also a fitting sendoff as the 20-team, mega-conference splits in half following this spring season.
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“We had high expectations going into the season,” said Pelfrey, a former Miamisburg standout who’s in his 26th season coaching the Panthers. “We definitely have had players out-perform the expectations I had for them. Definitely, our kids are excited and proud and our school community has really been fired about it.”
This is crunch time for high school spring sports. Area teams have advanced to all four baseball regionals, including defending D-II state champ Chaminade Julienne. The softball state final four is at Akron on Thursday through Saturday and the boys and girls state track and field meets are Friday and Saturday at Ohio State’s Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium in Columbus.
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No area teams advanced to the boys or girls lacrosse state championships, also this weekend. The boys state tennis championships concluded at Mason on Saturday. Preble Shawnee junior Pierce Elliott was third in D-II singles.
Springboro (23-6) will play Cincinnati Elder (21-6) at 5 p.m. Thursday. Butler (23-6) gets Cincinnati Turpin (17-10) in the 2 p.m. opener. The winners return on Friday to settle the regional title. That winner advances to next week’s state final four in Akron.
Springboro defeated West Clermont 9-5 and Butler edged Mason 6-5 in district finals.
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Springboro last played in a regional in 2002, and that was D-II. Senior first baseman Logan Zier leads the Panthers in home runs (seven), at-bats (83) and RBI’s (35). Adam Berry (.482), Kevin Schaaf (.467), Matt Dapore (.458), Jake D’Amico (.411) and Zier (.410) are regulars who all top .400 in batting.
Senior right-hander Austin Fawley (9-0) tied the Panthers record for most season wins. He has 35 strikeouts in 41.1 innings to go with three shutouts and a 0.85 ERA.
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Springboro won 20 games last season and was 25-5 in 2016. That high-end success has led to many former Panthers playing at the next level. The next three are outfielder Calvin Walters (Ohio Dominican), left-handed pitcher Adam Schomburg (Ashland) and pitcher Tyler Kean (OSU), all seniors.
“Our kids come into the program with that goal in mind,” Pelfrey said. “We’ve been fortunate to have guys who have worked hard and have had that opportunity.”
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• The Southwestern Buckeye League also advanced two teams in the baseball regionals. Franklin (25-6) will play Hamilton Ross (23-4) in Thursday’s D-II regional semi opener at Mason. CJ (23-2) follows against Columbus-district rep Granville (18-6). CJ will be making its third straight regional appearance and owns a 19-game win streak.
Middletown Madison (18-6) of the SWBL drew Versailles (16-9) of the Midwest Athletic Conference in D-III at Wright State on Thursday.
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The MAC also advanced Coldwater (23-6) in the D-III Elida Regional and Minster (20-7) in the D-IV Springfield regional at Carleton Davidson Stadium. All the baseball regional finals are Friday.
• Mechanicsburg (20-3), out of the Ohio Heritage Conference, is the only area rep in the softball state final four. The Indians will play Jeromesville Hillsdale (18-5) in a D-IV state semi on Friday. Mechanicsburg (19-5) also advanced to the D-IV baseball regional semi and will play Minster at Springfield on Thursday.
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Should the Indians win that baseball regional, look for the Ohio High School Athletic Association to adjust either their Friday baseball (currently 5 p.m.) or softball (5:30 p.m.) Friday start time to accommodate Mechanicsburg fans who might want to attend both games.
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