Fairfield claims sectional baseball title with dramatic comeback

Hamilton’s Payton Pennington beats the pickoff attempt of Fairfield first baseman Trinidad Selvie during their game at Joe Nuxhall Field in Fairfield on May 7. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY E.L. HUBBARD
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Hamilton’s Payton Pennington beats the pickoff attempt of Fairfield first baseman Trinidad Selvie during their game at Joe Nuxhall Field in Fairfield on May 7. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY E.L. HUBBARD

A controversial umpire’s call possibly cost Fairfield High School senior Brock Mathis a chance to score the winning run against Kings in the seventh inning Thursday.

Nothing was going to keep the FHS senior catcher from doing it in the ninth.

Mathis hit a two-out, two-run home run in the seventh to cap the Indians’ comeback from a 7-1 deficit and force extra innings at Hamilton’s Stang Field. He drew a two-out walk in the ninth, went to second on a passed ball and scored with a headfirst slide on senior right fielder Evan Trentman’s sharp single up the middle that glanced off Knights pitcher Brett Souder to give Fairfield an 8-7 win and the team’s first Division I sectional baseball championship since 2010.

“To come back from a 7-1 deficit like that … this is the best ballgame I’ve ever played in and I wouldn’t want to do it with anybody but these guys,” Mathis said after getting an ice water bath.

“You say you want your best player up there in that situation, but to see him actually do it — that’s clutch,” Fairfield coach Tommy Begley said.

Explore> Lakota West 7, La Salle 3

> Ross 9, Clinton-Massie 0

Explore> Chaminade Julienne 3, Badin 2
Explore> Waynesville 11, Madison 5

Fairfield (21-6) is scheduled to play Vandalia Butler in a 1:30 p.m. district championship game Saturday at Western Hills.

Mathis’ seventh-inning homer could have been a three-run game-winner, but senior second baseman Kaleb Ford saw a one-out single turned into an out when he was called for throwing his bat — it struck Kings junior catcher Evan Wheeler. The umpire had discussed the problem with Begley earlier in the game between innings.

“He said somebody threw a bat,” said Begley, who was livid about the call at the time. “He didn’t say who.”

Sophomore right fielder Tyler Gambill capped the Knights’ five-run third inning with a two-run home run and Wheeler added a two-run single in the fifth to create their six-run lead.

The Knights (16-11) sent eight batters to the plate in their five-run third inning. Senior left fielder Zak Kroell, Kings’ 9-hole batter, and sophomore center fielder Hunter Jessee led off with singles and moved up on senior shortstop Gabe Stacy’s sacrifice bunt. Senior pitcher Alex Orr delivered a game-tying sacrifice fly, followed by back-to-back RBI doubles by senior first baseman Maguire Stinson and junior third baseman Gavin McGaughey.

Gambill followed with a high fly ball straight down the left field line that both barely stayed fair and barely cleared the 20-foot high fence for his first home run of the season.

The Knights put together a two-out, nobody-on rally in the fifth for a 7-1 lead. McGaughey reached on an error, and Gambill and senior second baseman Alex Sepulveda were hit by pitches to load the bases, setting up Wheeler’s line-drive, two-run single to left field.

The Indians pushed across a run in the bottom of the first to grab a 1-0 lead. Senior center fielder Noah Bauman led off with a walk and went to second on Ford’s single to left. Mathis loaded the bases with a line-drive single to center field, and Trentman hit a sharp grounder that glanced off Stinson to Alex Sepulveda, whose throw to Orr covering was in time to get Trentman as Bauman crossed the plate.

Fairfield put together its own eight-batter inning in a four-run seventh that opened with back-to-back singles by Ford and senior third baseman Andrew Sams. One out later, Trentman delivered an RBI single. Junior first baseman Trinidad Selvie followed with a two-out run-scoring single, and Erick All came off the bench to hammer a two-run triple to left-center field that cut the Kings lead to 7-5.

Kings 005-020-000—7-10-0

Fairfield 100-004-201—8-11-1

WP — Shane Hatfield (2-1); LP — Brett Souder (3-4); HR — K: Tyler Gambill; F: Brock Mathis. Records: K 16-11, F 21-6