As the lead grew to four runs, then six and finally 10, Springboro pitcher Austin Fawley knew what was coming.
“I started believing it,” he said. “I know this team — I know once we get up the other team’s not coming back.”
That belief — and the belief that this team was good enough to go to state — became reality when a groundout set off a celebration of the Panthers’ 10-3 Division I regional final victory over Cincinnati Turpin at the University of Cincinnati’s Marge Schott Stadium.
»RELATED: Springboro stuns Elder
School is out in Springboro, but the Panthers (26-6) will be happy to come to school next week to practice for Friday’s 10 a.m. state semifinal at Canal Park in Akron against the winner of Saturday’s Cleveland area region final between Mentor and Cuyahoga Falls Walsh Jesuit.
“It’s way better than I imagined,” said Panthers senior right fielder Calvin Walters. “I always thought it would be great, but you don’t know how it feels until you actually do it. And it’s just better than I ever thought it would be. This is the most talented baseball team I’ve ever played with in my life, and this is the most fun I’ve had playing with any team.”
Mark Pelfrey has been waiting for this moment since becoming head coach 26 seasons ago. This was his first regional final, and the Panthers are the first Division I area team in the final four since Miamisburg in 2006.
“Every coach has that goal to get to state and win a state championship,” Pelfrey said. “There’s a lot of great coaches who never get that opportunity, so I feel very fortunate and blessed to be here.”
Fawley (11-0) pitched like the ace he has been all season. One day after setting a school record for wins by pitching the final inning in the 4-3 semifinal win over Cincinnati Elder, Fawley held Turpin (18-11) scoreless until tiring in the sixth. He allowed two runs, but left-hander Adam Schomburg relieved and finished the game.
“There was a little more pressure, but I felt like I handled it good,” said Fawley, who allowed eight hits, walked one and struck out two. “I just went out there and threw strikes and trusted my defense. They’ve got my back every time. This team, the chemistry, is unbelievable. I’ve never been on a team like this.”
The offense was led by Walters with three hits and five RBIs, all coming with two outs. His first RBI came on a first-inning single after Jake D’Amico’s leadoff double. After Tyler Kean’s single made it 2-0 in the fifth, Walters hit the ball over the left-field fence. But it wasn’t the three-run homer everyone assumed. Walters was called out on appeal for missing home plate and the lead stood at 4-0. He was credited with a triple.
“That was disappointing,” Walters said. “But my goal was just to drive in some runs, and that’s what I did. He’s the umpire and whatever he says goes, but I can tell you I touched it.”
The Panthers scored six more runs in the sixth, and Walters capped the rally with a two-run single. The other runs scored on two wild pitches, a bunt by Brock Bernard and a steal of home by Cameron Snurr on the back end of a double steal.
“The chemistry part is just so important,” Pelfrey said. “I’ve coached a lot of talented teams before that were not able to get this. You’ve got to have some talent, but the chemistry part is huge.”
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