The Miami Trace Panthers captured a Sectional championship in a Division II tournament game at home against Athens Thursday.
On a warm, but not humid, sunny afternoon, the Panthers knocked off the Bulldogs, 4-1.
Miami Trace is now 23-1 on the year.
The Panthers will host the Unioto Sherman Tanks in a District semifinal Monday at 5 p.m. Unioto beat Waverly, 2-1 Thursday.
In another Southeast District Sectional finals game Thursday, Hillsboro defeated Jackson, 2-1.
The other two teams in the tournament are Sheridan and Warren, who played Thursday, but for which there was no score available at press time.
Dylan Bernard started for the Panthers and pitched six innings for the victory.
He allowed just one hit and one earned run with 12 strikeouts and five walks. Bernard hit two batters.
Hunter McBee came in and notched the save for Miami Trace. He pitched one inning with three strikeouts and one walk.
Will Matters started and suffered the loss for Athens. He pitched five innings with 10 hits and four runs (all earned). He struck out five and did not walk a batter.
Will Ginder pitched one inning for Athens with one strikeout.
The Panthers scored one run in each of the first four innings.
Athens scored its only run in the top of the sixth.
In the bottom of the first, Conner Bucher, announced Thursday as the Player of the Year in the Frontier Athletic Conference, led off with a single to left field.
Bucher stole second and McBee bunted him over to third.
Josh Gilmore reached on an error that scored Bucher.
After Athens stranded two runners in the top of the second, the Panthers posted another run in the bottom of the frame.
With one out, Luke Zimmerman singled to right field.
With two away, Bucher singled to right with Zimmerman advancing to second.
McBee singled to load the bases.
Zimmerman scored on a wild pitch before Athens could retire the side, giving the Panthers a 2-0 lead.
Athens had one runner reach base in the third, but he was stranded.
In the bottom of the third, Braden Osborne singled to left field.
Gabe Campagna put down a sacrifice bunt, moving Osborne to second.
With two away, Osborne stole third. He scored on a single by Luke Henry for a 3-0 tally.
Athens was set down in order in the top of the fourth.
The Panthers posted what proved to be their final run of the game in the bottom of the fourth.
Wes May led off with a single to left field and Bucher had his third hit of the game, a single to left.
With one out, Gilmore singled to center, scoring May to give the Panthers a 4-0 lead.
Athens went out in order again in the fifth inning. The Panthers did, as well, in their half of the fifth.
Athens avoided the shutout with one run in the sixth.
Derrick Welsh singled and with one out, Ginder walked.
Jake Goldsberry walked to load the bases.
With two away, Tanner McCune was hit by a pitch, scoring Welsh.
The next batter flew out to leave the bases loaded for the Bulldogs.
The Panthers went out in order in the sixth, setting up the final half inning of the game.
Athens had a two-out walk to Welsh, but the next batter struck out, ending the game.
“We haven’t been able to pitch Dylan until the last three weeks because of the control problems,” Miami Trace head coach Rob Smith said. “Now he can work himself out of it. At the beginning of the year, he couldn’t do that.
“Dylan will be a big key for us moving forward,” Smith said.
“It’s the same M.O. (mode of operation) all year,” Smith said. “We leave a lot of runners on. There have been a lot of games this year we could have broken open if we had just gotten a hit when we needed it, but we didn’t. That’s just how we play.
“Our pitching is good, our defense has been good,” Smith said. “As for our hitting, we score the runs we need to score.
“We’ve won the Sectional and now we get to host a District semifinal game,” Smith said. “If it’s Unioto, we know what we’re up against.”
Miami Trace hosted Unioto on May 13 and won that game, 9-3.
This is the third Sectional title for the Panthers under head coach Rob Smith.
“Anytime you win the league, that’s big,” Smith said. “Winning the Sectional is big. We’re just going one game at a time.
“It’s going to be a battle (Monday),” Smith said. “They have the same goals we have.”
Offensively for Miami Trace: Conner Bucher, 3-4, 1 run, sb; Hunter McBee, 1-3, sac; Josh Gilmore, 1-3, 2 RBI, roe; Braden Osborne, 2-3, 1 run, sb; Gabe Campagna, 0-2, sac; Dylan Bernard, 0-3; Luke Henry, 1-3, 1 RBI; Luke Zimmerman, 1-3, 1 run; Wes May, 1-3, 1 run. LOB: 7.
A 000 001 0 — 1 1 2
MT 111 100 x — 4 10 0