Top-ranked Greeneview baseball reaches district final for first time in 29 years

JAMESTOWN — Before Keegan Phillips crosses the white line he’s a smiling and friendly baseball player. On the other side of that line his personality shifts into a stone-faced competitor focused on winning in whatever way possible.

On Monday, the top-seeded Greeneview Rams were glad for Phillips’ competitive side.

Phillips worked around three hits and five walks, picked two runners off, benefitted from a crucial double play and got key strikeouts to go six innings and lead the Rams to a 1-0 win over 14th-seeded Preble Shawnee in a Division III district semifinal.

“Whenever I step on the field I’m not who I am off the field — I’m completely different — my parents will attest to that,” Phillips said. “The defense in this game held us together. The pitching on my side wasn’t there completely, but this team they just don’t give up. They’re fighters.”

The Rams (24-4) will play in a district final Wednesday for the first time since 1994, which is also the last time they won one. To earn a fifth district trophy since 1977, the Rams will have to beat Madeira (16-11), a 7-6 walkoff winner over Middletown Madison, at 5 p.m. Wednesday at the Midland Complex in Batavia.

“This was another milestone for us,” Greeneview coach John Brooks said. “This has been a team that has just set records all year long, and they’ve just set a pace for themselves not to really compete with other teams but to compete with themselves. And so I expect big things from them. Early on, when I said to people I expect to go to state, people looked at me like I was crazy. Even now people ask where’s Jamestown? These guys are putting it on the map when it comes to baseball.”

The Rams scored in the first inning despite the first of two baserunning mistakes between third base and home that Brooks took the blame for. Phillips started the first with a double and tried to score on a single by Hunter Brooks, but the stop sign didn’t come out and he was thrown out easily at home. Brooks, however, eventually got to third and scored on Grady Hutchinson’s wild pitch.

From there, the duel was on between Phillips and Hutchinson, denying both teams timely hits.

Phillips, who struck out eight, ended the first and second innings with strikeouts and stranded runners at second base. In the third and fifth, the left-hander’s pickoff move to first got runners caught in rundowns. A strikeout in the fifth ended that inning with a runner on second. In the sixth, with runners on first and second, shortstop Kaden Knisley started a 4-6-3 double play to end the inning.

“I always like those moments of close games, they bring out the best of you,” Phillips said.

Hunter Brooks pitched the ninth, worked around a leadoff walk and got a groundout to Knisley to end the game with a runner on third.

“Picking guys off, he’s been really great at that all year long,” Brooks said of Phillips. “He gets in trouble, he gets himself out of a jam. His baseball IQ has been high since he was really, really young. He just understands how to play the game really well and relies on all of his game, not just pitching, but just being a good baseball player.”

Preble Shawnee (13-9) beat the odds with upsets of No. 7 Dayton Christian and No. 6 Miami East with good pitching, which Hutchinson displayed against Greeneview on 78 pitches in six innings.

“We played very well and Grady pitched an outstanding game,” Arrows fourth-year coach Zane Cottingham said. “We had ups and downs throughout the season, but we had really good pitchers. So when we got seeded low I knew we were going to make a good little run. The team wanted to prove themselves being seeded so low, and I think they did a pretty good job of doing that.”

Other Division III games: Waynesville (12-11), the 13 seed, knocked off No. 1 Williamsburg in the south brackets 7-3. Ben Freese and Kellen Philpot knocked in two runs each, and Nate LeBlanc and Joe Stone combined on a seven-hitter. The Spartans next face Arcanum on Wednesday in a district final at Kings High School. Third-seeded Arcanum (21-5) defeated No. 4 Brookville (17-12) behind a complete game from freshman Regan Christ.

Fifth-seeded Versailles (14-11) knocked off No. 2 Indian Lake (18-9) 5-0 to advance. The Tigers will face the south’s No. 7 seed Cincinnati Country Day (18-11), a 7-4 winner over No. 3 Carlisle (16-9), at Dayton Christian.

Division IV: Seventh-seeded Catholic Central (10-18), which had knocked off top-seeded Tri-Village, fell 3-1 to No. 2 Southeastern (13-9). The Trojans’ next opponent Wednesday at Versailles is south No. 2 Fayetteville Perry, a 4-0 winner over No. 5 Felicity Franklin.

Fourth-seeded Bradford upset top-seeded Fort Loramie 2-0 and will meet the winner of Tuesday’s game between No. 3 Twin Valley South and No. 4 Troy Christian on Wednesday at Houston.

Defending state champion Russia, the two seed, slipped past No. 3 Newton 6-5. The Raiders’ next opponent is south No. 1 Miami Valley Christian, an 8-3 winner over Ripley, at Miamisburg.

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