The Miami Trace Panthers varsity baseball team had its fans on pins and needles on a chilly Thursday, May 6 as they took on the McClain Tigers.
Miami Trace, ranked No. 3 in the state in this week’s Division II coaches’ poll, needed a win over the Tigers to claim a share of the Frontier Athletic Conference title.
A loss to McClain would have dropped the Panthers to second place in the final standings.
The Panthers and Tigers battled through five scoreless innings before Miami Trace broke out for five runs in the bottom of the sixth to post a 5-0 win.
Conner Bucher pitched a complete game, three-hitter against the Tigers. He struck out 10 and walked three.
Isaac Smith started for the Tigers and worked five innings, taking the loss. He allowed five hits and three runs (all earned) with six strikeouts and six walks.
Wesley Potts pitched one inning with three hits and two runs (one earned) with one strikeout.
What turned out to be the game-winning hit was a two-run home run by Dylan Bernard following a walk to Gabe Campagna. (Tate Landrum pinch-ran for Campagna.)
Luke Henry kept the rally going with a single to right. Bo Little came in to run for Henry.
Luke Zimmerman bunted for an infield hit.
Dillon Hyer then had a sacrifice bunt, moving Little to third and Zimmerman to second.
After the second out was recorded, Hunter McBee found a hole on the right side of the infield for a single to make it 4-0, Panthers.
Josh Gilmore reached on an error and McBee and Gilmore each moved up a base on a wild pitch.
Braden Osborne singled, scoring McBee. Gilmore was tagged out at the plate to end the inning.
For the Tigers in the top of the seventh, Seth Weller walked and reached second on a wild pitch.
Bucher got his 10th strikeout to end the game.
“I don’t know how to explain this team,” Miami Trace head coach Rob Smith said. “We just find ways to win.
“Obviously, our pitching has been very good,” Smith said.
With 113 innings pitched, Miami Trace has a team earned run average of 2.17. Bucher has thrown 41.1 innings and is 6-0 with a team-high 67 strikeouts and a team low earned run average of 1.02.
“Our defense has been good,” Smith said.
“We tend to score about one to two innings a ballgame,” Smith said. “Down there (at Greenfield) we scored in the fifth (two runs) and the seventh (one run, in a 3-0 win on April 23).
“Against Court House (on April 30) it was (three runs) in the sixth (in a 3-0 win over the Blue Lions),” Smith said.
“We will look really bad at the plate for the longest time and all of a sudden, we erupt,” Smith said. “They don’t let some bad at bats get them down. They keep their confidence.
“Dylan’s home run was big,” Smith said. “I watched (McClain play Jackson Wednesday). (McClain) had a legitimate shot to beat (Jackson). (McClain) was up two runs going into the seventh inning and it didn’t fall their way.
“I knew they weren’t going to roll over, because coach (Kenny) Branscom is a very good coach,” Smith said. “He’s got them playing really well.
“We’ve been focused since last Friday, as soon as we got the last out against Court House,” Smith said. “We knew (McClain) was going to give us everything and more.
“Hats off to Conner Bucher,” Smith said. “He had another outstanding performance on the mound.
“I’m proud of our kids,” Smith said. “We’ve worked two years in the weight room. This is for last year’s senior class that worked and didn’t get a chance (to play). We would have been very good.
“What else can you ask,” Smith said. “We lost our first league game in kind of embarrassing fashion to Jackson (13-1 on April 7). We got them back and we beat everyone else on the schedule.
“We’re excited and our kids are happy,” Smith said. This is the third league title for the Panthers under Smith’s guidance.
Miami Trace and Jackson finish tied for first at 9-1.
Hillsboro placed third at 6-4, with Washington and Chillicothe tied for fourth at 3-7 and McClain 0-10.
Miami Trace (17-1 overall) is scheduled to play at Madison Plains Saturday at 11 a.m.
The Panthers have games next week at home against Eastern on Monday and at Southeastern Tuesday. Those games start at 5 p.m.
The Division II Sectional tournament drawing is this weekend.
Offensively for Miami Trace: Conner Bucher, 1-3, 1 bb, 2 sb; Hunter McBee, 2-4, 1 run, 2 RBI, 1 sb; Josh Gilmore, 0-2, 2 bb, 1 sb, roe; Braden Osborne, 1-4, 1 RBI; Gabe Campagna, 0-2, 1 bb, fc; Dylan Bernard, 1-3, 1 run, 2 RBI, 1 home run; Luke Henry, 2-3; Luke Zimmerman, 1-1, 1 run, 2 bb; Wes May, 0-2; Dillon Hyer, 0-0, 1 sac; Tate Landrum, 0-0, 1 run, 1 sb; Bo Little, 0-0, 1 run. LOB: 8.
Offensively for McClain: Trevor Stonerock, 0-3; Carson Spangler, 0-2, 1 bb; Kaden Penwell, 1-3; Isaac Smith, 0-3; Haydon Hice, 0-3; Seth Weller, 1-2, 1 bb; Mason Ratcliff, 0-3; Andrew Potts, 1-2; Wesley Potts, 0-1, 1 bb, 1 sb, fc. LOB: 4.
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