High School Baseball: Waynesville continues unlikely postseason run

KINGS MILLS – Waynesville second baseman Rylan Guthrie and a teammate creeped along in stealth mode with the Gatorade cooler toward head coach Ryan Hill.

Guthrie earned the right to conduct the ceremonial dousing. Not just because he is a senior. But because he was in the middle of just about everything good that happened for the Spartans in Wednesday’s Division III baseball district final at Kings High School.

And just like he was successful with the difference-making two-run single in the third inning and started the game-ending double play, Guthrie was spot on in making Hill feel the chill of the icy Gatorade after the Spartans’ 3-2 victory over Arcanum continued the team’s surprising tournament run.

“I miss that feeling so much,” Hill shouted.

It’s a feeling no one saw coming. The Spartans (13-11) played most of the season with a losing record, finished last in the Southwestern Buckeye League East Division, and were voted a No. 13 tournament seed. But they’ve beaten No. 10 Norwood 2-0, No. 1 Williamsburg 7-3 and now Arcanum (21-6), the No. 3 seed in the north sectionals and the champions of the Western Ohio Athletic Conference.

“We’ve never experienced this, my grade coming in and COVID taking out our first year,” Guthrie said. “Now being here this is such a great feeling and sky’s the limit.”

The next step is a regional semifinal next Thursday at 5 p.m. at Wright State against Central District representative Heath, a 3-1 winner over top-seeded Fredericktown.

“We preach to teenagers all the time that it’s a team game filled with individual efforts, but our individual efforts early on were kind of for the individual,” Hill said. “Now we’re playing team ball, and it’s fun to watch them celebrate each other and really come together at obviously the right time.”

The Spartans’ three-run third was a clinic in keeping the line moving against Arcanum starter Caden Thompson, who otherwise kept the Spartans down.

Adam Papanek started the inning with a walk, leadoff hitter Peyton Frederick singled and Isaac Squire was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Joe Stone singled in the first run. Then Guthrie singled over the third-base bag to plate two more runs.

“I just went out there like every at-bat this season, and I found a pitch that I liked, swung and God blessed me with a hit,” Guthrie said.

Waynesville sophomore pitcher Nate LeBlanc dominated Arcanum most of the game and overcame two first-inning baserunners.

“It was very nerve-wracking in the beginning,” he said. “But I trust my defense, they made plays. I thank God every day for the opportunity he gives me to come out here and play baseball.”

LeBlanc cruised until Arcanum’s Ethan Kearney singled in two runs in the fifth. But LeBlanc retired six of the next eight Trojans to finish the game. However, it didn’t come without a nervous moment in the seventh when he walked Dakota Kendig with one out.

Next up was leadoff hitter Bryson Sharp. But Sharp bounced a grounder to Guthrie. He flipped to Squire covering second and Squire fired to first baseman Stone to complete the double play and end the game.

“When the ball was rolling on the ground it literally felt like slow motion was happening as my second baseman is getting it,” LeBlanc said. “And then I couldn’t stop jumping like a little bunny. It’s a great team win and on to the next.”

Guthrie wasn’t about to let the ball get past him.

“I was definitely was shaking in my boots,” he said. “But it’s a routine play for us, and we practice that, and I’m just glad it ended like that.”

Can the Spartans in the bright orange jerseys keep it going? Guthrie says yes.

“We’re the underdogs, and we love to play as underdogs,” he said. “All season people have counted us out, and we’re the orange people, and nobody can stop us. So we’re gonna keep going.”

Greeneview 4, Madeira 3: The top-seeded Rams won their first district title since 1994 and will play in the 2 p.m. region semifinal next Thursday at Wright State against Cincinnati Country Day, a 7-4 winner over Versailles.

The Rams rallied to the victory with a three-run fifth inning.

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