Thunderhawks regroup, knock off previously unbeaten Oak Hills

Lakota East’s Jefferson Szydlowski tags out Oak Hills’ Drew Wetterich at home plate to end the game Tuesday at East. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY E.L. HUBBARD
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Lakota East’s Jefferson Szydlowski tags out Oak Hills’ Drew Wetterich at home plate to end the game Tuesday at East. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY E.L. HUBBARD

It was the jolt of positivity that Lakota East High School’s baseball team needed.

The Thunderhawks haven’t gotten off to a great start this season, but they showed they’re ready to move forward Tuesday by blanking previously unbeaten Oak Hills 4-0.

“More than anything else, we needed a win, regardless of who it was,” said East coach Ray Hamilton, whose squad improved to 2-2 overall and 1-2 in the Greater Miami Conference.

“I’ve got a good feeling about this team. They show up every day. They’re fun to be around. We just need to relax and play. If we can get out of our own way, we’ll be OK. Hopefully we get some decent weather and can run a bunch together and just get after it.”

John Sherman, Alex Kerr and Jefferson Szydlowski combined on a three-hitter for the host Thunderhawks, but those hurlers didn’t take the easy road to victory.

They racked up nine strikeouts and seven walks and dodged bullets all day. The Highlanders (3-1, 2-1) stranded 10 runners, seven in the first three innings.

Lakota East pitcher John Sherman delivers a pitch to Oak Hills during Tuedsay’s game in Liberty Township. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY E.L. HUBBARD
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Lakota East pitcher John Sherman delivers a pitch to Oak Hills during Tuedsay’s game in Liberty Township. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY E.L. HUBBARD

“You’ve got to hit with runners in scoring position. That’s where you make your money,” Oak Hills coach Chuck Laumann said. “We couldn’t get the hit when we needed it. It happens. It’s baseball.”

Sherman threw 109 pitches in five innings, allowing two hits with six strikeouts and five walks. Kerr and Szydlowski finished with an inning apiece.

“We needed Sherm to throw it the way Sherm can, and we needed to get some guys going at the plate,” Hamilton said. “Against Springfield and the two Fairfield games, I didn’t see that. I did the week before in scrimmages, but once we started, I think we got a little bit tight and things changed.

“The free passes have been an issue for us. Hopefully we’ll cut down significantly on those as we get into this thing.”

East scored three unearned runs in the first inning against Austin Penwell. Zach Holliday had an RBI single, and Mitchell Reardon and Andrew Jaeger both walked with the bases loaded.

Joseph Cooney added an RBI double in the fifth for the Thunderhawks. Cooney and Winston Owens, who’s hitting .583, collected two hits apiece.

“We definitely needed that one after losing twice to Fairfield,” said Owens, a senior catcher. “We were thinking that we needed to go out, leave everything to the side and just play East baseball. Hopefully we can grab this momentum and continue with it.”

Sherman entered Tuesday’s play with a 37.95 earned run average in 1.2 innings of work. The senior right-hander walked the bases loaded in the second inning, but got out of it with two strikeouts and a fielder’s choice.

“He was effectively wild,” Laumann said. “He was throwing the ball well. He had a little giddy-up to it. When a guy’s effectively wild, kids don’t know what to swing at. They’re not set to hit, and that had a lot to do with it. We were just kind of flat coming out today. We gave them three unearned runs in the first inning and that kind of set the tone for everything.”

Penwell pitched five innings for the Highlanders. He gave up six hits and struck out five before Adam Schaefer finished.

“If we get one run across, I think the complexion of the game would’ve changed a little bit,” Laumann said. “But we couldn’t get that one run.”

Lakota East’s Jefferson Szydlowski catches an Oak Hills popup as teammate Zach Holliday (22) and Brett Kron (16) of Oak Hills watch during Tuesday’s game in Liberty Township. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY E.L. HUBBARD
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Lakota East’s Jefferson Szydlowski catches an Oak Hills popup as teammate Zach Holliday (22) and Brett Kron (16) of Oak Hills watch during Tuesday’s game in Liberty Township. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY E.L. HUBBARD

The GMC race is already tight. Fairfield is the only team that’s still unbeaten in conference action.

East hasn’t won the GMC since 2011, the same year the Thunderhawks captured the Division I state championship.

“There’s no team that’s really come out and posed themselves as the team to beat this year,” Owens said. “I want to say we’re the team to beat, but we’ve got to come out every game and play like we’re playing for the GMC title. I really think if we take it one game at a time and keep it simple, keep it the East way, the sky’s the limit.”

Laumann believes Oak Hills will be in the hunt for the title.

“I’m sure three, four, five teams will separate themselves as we get to the midway point,” he said. “But it’s going to be a battle all the way through. That’s the neat thing about this conference. There’s not a day off no matter who you’re playing or where you’re playing because everybody’s got quality pitching. You’re not going to run-rule people left and right like in other conferences where you’ve got some people down at the bottom that just can’t compete with everybody.”

East hosts Mason on Wednesday, while the Highlanders travel to Hamilton.

Oak Hills 000-000-0—0-3-1

Lakota East 300-010-x—4-6-1

WP — John Sherman (1-1); LP — Austin Penwell (1-1). Records: O 3-1, 2-1 GMC; L 2-2, 1-2 GMC

Lakota East’s Mitchell Reardon is out as Oak Hills second baseman Corey Miley turns a double play during Tuesday’s game at East. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY E.L. HUBBARD
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Lakota East’s Mitchell Reardon is out as Oak Hills second baseman Corey Miley turns a double play during Tuesday’s game at East. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY E.L. HUBBARD

Lakota East’s Winston Owens gets caught off base and tagged out by Oak Hills first baseman Tyler Murphy during their game in Liberty Township on Tuesday. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY E.L. HUBBARD
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Lakota East’s Winston Owens gets caught off base and tagged out by Oak Hills first baseman Tyler Murphy during their game in Liberty Township on Tuesday. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY E.L. HUBBARD

Lakota East’s Dylan Fry fields an Oak Hills ground ball during Tuesday’s game at East. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY E.L. HUBBARD
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Lakota East’s Dylan Fry fields an Oak Hills ground ball during Tuesday’s game at East. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY E.L. HUBBARD

Noah Smith scores Lakota East’s first run as Oak Hills catcher Brett Kron waits for a throw during Tuesday’s game at East. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY E.L. HUBBARD
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Noah Smith scores Lakota East’s first run as Oak Hills catcher Brett Kron waits for a throw during Tuesday’s game at East. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY E.L. HUBBARD

Lakota East shortstop Jefferson Szydlowski gets the force out on Oak Hills runner Corey Miley during their game in Liberty Township on Tuesday. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY E.L. HUBBARD
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Lakota East shortstop Jefferson Szydlowski gets the force out on Oak Hills runner Corey Miley during their game in Liberty Township on Tuesday. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY E.L. HUBBARD

Lakota East’s Joseph Cooney reacts to his RBI double in the fifth inning of Tuesday’s game against visiting Oak Hills. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY E.L. HUBBARD
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Lakota East’s Joseph Cooney reacts to his RBI double in the fifth inning of Tuesday’s game against visiting Oak Hills. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY E.L. HUBBARD

Lakota East third baseman Sam Sprockett prepares to throw to first to get Oak Hills batter Corey Miley on Tuesday at East. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY E.L. HUBBARD
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Lakota East third baseman Sam Sprockett prepares to throw to first to get Oak Hills batter Corey Miley on Tuesday at East. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY E.L. HUBBARD