PDT Sports Writer
CHILLICOTHE — After Thursday night, the West Senators have a shot to gain a major piece of hardware.
No. 4 West played stellar defense behind Luke Morgan and received timely hits off No. 1 Piketon’s ace Zach Farmer to post a 4-2 win in a Division III Southeast District Semifinal at VA Memorial Stadium. The Senators advance to Saturday’s championship to play the winner of the No. 3 Rock Hill-No. 2 Meigs contest, which was not completed at press time.
“I think (Morgan) will be grilling hot dogs tonight or buying steaks, I don’t know,” West coach Chris Rapp said about his team’s performance in the field. “The defense really stepped it up for him and made some good plays when we needed them.”
The Senators wasted no time getting to the Ohio State signee and possible high-round MLB draft pick as Brady Knittel took a 1-1 curveball in the first to right center field to score Wesley Book. The Redstreaks responded in their first at-bat when Kolt Goode singled to score Michael Lewis.
Piketon took its only lead in the second when Chaz Bowman opened the frame with a triple. Two batters later, he beat out a Knittel throw to home on an Isaac Brabson RBI fielder’s choice.
A second tie came in the top of the third when West loaded the bases and capitalized with a Trevar Welch RBI walk on five pitches. Although the Senators struck out a combined 15 times against Farmer and Brice Bennett, they also drew seven walks and had Morgan reach in the seventh when he was hit by a pitch.
West took the lead for good with two outs in the fourth. With Patrick Bays running for Travis Smith at third and Morgan at the plate, Todd Galloway was caught in a pickle between first and second. During the rundown, Bays dashed towards home and scored before Galloway was tagged out to end the frame.
Rapp revealed after the game they had actually executed the same play a number of years ago against Zane Trace.
“The first baseman, they (weren’t) paying any attention to the runner at third,” Rapp said. “When we saw that, we sent him home and we just executed it right at the right time.”
An insurance run was added in the seventh when Austin Howard’s dribbler down the third base line scored Morgan.
“We practiced that all week,” Rapp said. “That’s Austin’s power. Before that, he one down the (right field) line so I think they were playing back too much.”
The Redstreaks had chances but Knittel made a pair of later-inning plays to dash their hopes. Craigen Moore led off the fourth with a double but was gunned down by Knittel trying to stretch it to a triple. After Bowman led the sixth with a double and was moved to third on a Moore sacrifice bunt, Isaac Brabson hit a liner to a drawn-in Knittel that would’ve gone for an RBI single if not for the defensive positioning.
“They made plays, they did the things they needed to do,” Piketon coach Gene Bumgardner said. “We weren’t on. We hit the ball hard at them all day and they made plays and that’s baseball.”
Morgan went the distance and threw 120 pitches.
“I don’t know if Luke has a blood pressure to be honest,” Rapp said. “Nothing shakes him.”
He was literally hit once when Farmer lined a shot off Morgan’s leg to start the third.
On the other hand, Farmer hurled 121 pitches in six innings. Despite the rough game, Bumgardner is grateful to have an individual who has brought levels of excitement to all levels of Piketon baseball.
“Zach’s a special player that comes along once-in-a-lifetime and has done so many things for our program,” Bumgardner said.
Now the goal for Rapp’s bunch is to have a short memory with the focus on a district championship and to join Oak Hill, which has already punched a ticket into the regional tournament. Top-seeded Wheelersburg could potentially be a third SOC II team in the same regional with a win Friday over No. 4 Alexander and Saturday over the winner of the No. 10 Adena-No. 3 Crooksville contest.
The Redstreaks lose 11 seniors, including Farmer, Bennett, Brabson, Goode, Bowman, Moore, Bryan Robinson, Michael Lewis, Evan Ferguson, Tyler Carson and Dakota Sparks.
“I’ve been here for five years and every year I say this, we ‘ve got great seniors. But this group, there’s something special about them,” Bumgardner said.
Cody Leist can be reached at 353-3101, ext. 294, or firstname.lastname@example.org. For breaking sports news, follow Cody on Twitter @CodyLeist.
West 101 100 1 — 4 6 0
Piketon 110 000 0 — 2 7 0
West — Book 0-3 (BB, R), Galloway 0-3 (BB), Morgan 1-3 (HBP, R), Knittel 2-3 (BB, RBI), Reynolds 1-3 (BB), Welch 0-3 (BB, SB, RBI), Howard 2-4 (2B, RBI), Smith 0-3 (BB), Lewis 0-2 (BB), Bays 0-0 (R).
Piketon — Dixon 1-3 (2B, HBP), Lewis 0-3 (BB, R), Farmer 2-4, Goode 1-4 (RBI), Fremder 0-2 (BB), Bennett 0-2 (BB), Bowman 2-3 (2B, 3B, R), Moore 1-2 (2B, SAC), Brabson 0-3 (RBI).
W — Morgan (6-3) CG, 2 R (2 ER), 7 H, 7 K, 2 BB, 1 HB
L — Farmer (10-1) 6 IP, 3 R (3 ER), 4 H, 12 K, 6 BB
Records — West 13-9; Piketon 21-7.