The history-making Springboro High School baseball team needed all the good fortune it could muster for Friday’s Division I state final four.
The Panthers sure weren’t relying on experience. Few other Springboro teams had ventured beyond the district final level, and none in D-I. Its potent offense, loaded with .400-plus hitters and averaging nearly nine runs per game, would have to do.
There’s always next season.
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“The baseball gods were not in our favor,” Springboro starting pitcher Tyler Kean said following a 4-0 setback to Mentor in a D-I state semifinal at Canal Park, home of the Akron RubberDucks, a Double-A affiliate of Indians. “That’s part of the game and you’ve got to deal with it.”
So, it’s Mentor (22-5), out of Lake County near Cleveland, that moves on to Sunday’s D-I state championship against Cleveland St. Ignatius (23-8-1), which advanced by outlasting Hilliard Darby 4-3 in 13 innings in Friday’s other marathon semi. Lasting three hours and 42 minutes, that was the longest contest in the 92-year history of Ohio’s state final fours.
Springboro (25-7), its nine-game win streak snapped, will have to settle with being the first Dayton-area D-I rep in the state final four since Miamisburg in 2006.
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That lethal Springboro offense that eliminated Cincinnati Elder, then Turpin in last week’s regional at the University of Cincinnati? Shut down, silenced and sent packing by Mentor senior pitcher Justin Wilson. Unsigned, he was touched for just two singles by Adam Berry and Cameron Snurr to go with a walk to Josh Collins. Wilson struck out eight.
Springboro bunched two on in the third inning with one out, but couldn’t score and didn’t come close to threatening again.
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Mentor chased Kean with a three-run fifth inning. Having broken a scoreless dual in the fourth, Mentor benefitted from a Springboro throwing error in the fifth to go with three hits, a walk, wild pitch, and stolen base, all with two outs. That was everything the Panthers were unable to do.
“That was a backbreaker the way that pitcher was throwing,” said Springboro coach Mark Pelfrey, in his 26th season guiding the Panthers. “We made a couple mistakes and they capitalized on them. They were a scrappy team and that pitcher was outstanding. He did not give us a lot of opportunities. He was just better than us.”
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Except for that fateful fifth, Kean was Wilson’s equal. Headed to Ohio State University to pitch, Kean was charged with all four runs, but just one was earned. He struck out eight with a lively fastball and allowed one walk.
“Everything was going well and I was making good pitches,” Kean said. “The team was there. We just couldn’t come up with the plays at the right time, but I love my brothers.”
Adam Schomburg (1.1 innings) and Austin Fawley (1.0) followed Kean in relief.
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With Springboro’s elimination, that leaves it to state-tested Chaminade Julienne (D-II), Coldwater (D-III) and Minster (D-IV) to bring home a championship. Minster, which won D-IV state titles in 2011-12 and ’17, played later Friday. CJ, the defending D-II champ, and Coldwater, which won the last of its six state titles in 2014, were assigned Saturday state semis.
“It was an exciting time for our program and our school,” Pelfrey said. “It’s not easy to get through that Cincinnati regional. Being able to do that, I’m extremely proud of our kids and real happy our community was so supportive of us. It was a great experience for our program.”
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