High School baseball: Lebanon falls to Elder in four-hour, 15-inning marathon

CINCINNATI — Larry Price got a season-saving hit in the bottom of the seventh inning on his final night as the Lebanon baseball coach. But the second one he and the Warriors needed over the next eight innings never came.

Instead, Cincinnati Elder finally found ways to score in the 15th inning and finished a four-hour marathon with a 6-2 victory in a Division I district final at Princeton High School.

“Some game,” he said after instructing his players one final time to pack up the dugout. “Somebody had to win.”

As the sun set, the lights came on, the air cooled and Chaminade Julienne and Cincinnati Indian Hill waited to play their Division II district final that was supposed to start at 7:30, Lebanon (21-9) and Elder (22-8) played on until just after 9 p.m. Three up, three down in almost every inning.

“I went over to the other coach and said I wonder if they’ll let us both advance with a tie because it was going that way for a while,” Price said.

Elder was headed for another quick inning in the 15th. But with one out a third strike got to the backstop and the runner reached first. From there, the Panthers singled to load the bases and broke the tie on an infield hit. Then a sacrifice fly, a pitching change and a single that plated two runs with the aid of an overthrow.

“I thought we lost it on the strikeout — that’s the winning run,” Price said. “You can’t strike a guy out and let him get on first.”

The Warriors had no magic left and managed only a one-out single by Jayden Upper to finally succumb to the Panthers and the night.

The game nearly ended two hours earlier. But an intervention kept Price’s 30-plus year coaching career, the final 12 at Lebanon, alive for two more hours.

With two outs and two strikes, Lebanon leadoff man Kyle Koch was hit by a pitch. He stole second. Then senior shortstop Jack Cecil, who finished 5-for-7, faced two strikes. He doubled to score Koch with the tying run. The game that had been about to end was suddenly not even half over.

“That was great,” Price said of Cecil’s hit. “But we’re all hurt because we thought we were good enough to go farther than this. I think we could’ve won some more games.”

Price hurt for his players and coaches, and he also hated to see his days in the dugout end the way they did.

“I’m hurt, sad, wanted one more,” he said. “But grateful for Lebanon to give me the opportunity to coach there. It’s a great community, great people, the kids are great. That part I’m glad I ended it at Lebanon. I’m going to miss it. But it’s time to get my lawn chair and go watch the grandkids.”

Price said he had never been a part of a game quite like this one. But he did smile when he remembered one of his high school games.

“I remember in high school I pitched a 13-inning one,” he said. “We won that one.”

In other Division I games: The regionals next week at Xavier will be an all-Cincinnati lineup.

Springboro played in its fifth straight district final and fell to West Clermont 4-2 at Lakota East. The Panthers (21-8) fell behind 4-0 by the fifth inning. West Clermont’s regional foe is top-ranked Cincinnati Moeller. The Crusaders (27-3) defeated Fairmont 10-0 in five innings at Lebanon.

Elder meets Mason (26-4) in the other regional semifinal. The Comets defeated Troy (22-8) 9-3 at Centerville. The Trojans led 2-1 after the first inning, but Mason scored four in the second and three in the fifth.

Division II: Franklin (18-12) was tied 1-1 early, but Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy put away the Wildcats with a five-run third on the way to an 11-1 win at Middletown. CHCA faces Chaminade Julienne (25-5) in the regionals at 2 p.m. Thursday at Mason.

Hamilton Badin (28-1) advanced to the 5 p.m. semifinal with a 10-0 win over Kenton Ridge (20-7). Badin will face Hebron Lakewood, a No. 10 seed from the Central District. Lakewood beat Licking Valley 4-3.

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