Nick Wissman’s demeanor on the pitching mound never changed Saturday. Even when the final out was recorded in Chaminade Julienne’s 3-1 Division II regional semifinal victory over Granville, he walked off the mound with a straight face.
When the Eagles (24-2) go for their third straight trip to the state final four at noon Sunday against Hamilton Ross (24-5) at Mason High School, Wissman will be at shortstop. Only the No. 16 on his jersey and the hole in the left leg of his pants will look like Wissman the pitcher.
“I’m two completely different players,” said the senior who pitched in the state final last year. “On the mound I don’t really show that much emotion. I’m calm because I know it’s a seven-inning game. When I’m out at short my emotions are flying high and I’m yelling all over the place, pumping people up.”
On the mound Sunday in the regional final for the second straight year will be junior Sebastian Gongora. Wissman and Gongora helped lead CJ to its first state championship last year since Chaminade won it all in 1970, and they’re trying to do it again.
“We know we’re going to get a quality start every time they go out there and give us a chance to win,” Eagles coach Mike Barhorst said. “They both just pound the strike zone, minimize hits, don’t walk guys, let our defense make plays for them.”
Those few runs came in the first inning against hard-throwing Tyler Johnston. The Eagles were patient and Andrew Simones and Wissman earned one-out walks. Gongora singled to load the bases. With two outs, Jake Hieatt was hit by a pitch to force in the first run. Then junior Jack Huffman ripped a 1-2 pitch up the middle for two RBIs and 3-0 lead.
“We’ve been in this moment before, so I just knew that with runners on base we had to score early,” Huffman said. “Coach has preached it all season — score early and put teams away.”
Barhorst also knows not to let a tw0-strike count to Huffman cause him to worry.
“He might look completely outmatched the first pitch he sees, he might look like he’s going to be an easy out and next thing you know he always gets big hits for us, especially come tournament time,” Barhorst said. “He’s been that way the last two years for us.”
Ross topped Franklin 2-0 in Saturday’s first semifinal.
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