By Rob Kiser
SPRINGFIELD — Lehman Catholic baseball coach Dave King knew exactly why his team had just beaten Reedsville Eastern in the Division IV regional semifinal 2-1 at Carleton Davidson Stadium in Springfield Thursday afternoon — and why the Cavaliers, 23-4, were moving on to play the Triad-Tri-County North winner at 5 p.m. today for a berth in the state tournament.
“Everybody on this team did something good today,” King said. “Everybody who played, contributed in some way.”
And none was any bigger than the clutch hitting in the fifth inning that produced the Cavaliers only two runs — or the defense of catcher Max Schutt in the sixth inning.
For four-plus innings, Reedsville Eastern pitcher Cam Richmond had dodged bullets and came up with one big out after another.
Lehman had second and third with with two outs in the second and second and third with one out in the fourth, but could not score and trailed 1-0.
Then in the fifth, after a leadoff single by Owen Smith, with Smith going to second on an error with no outs, but Richmond followed with two straight strikeouts. When Nate Bosway strode to the plate, Lehman was 0-for-5 in the game with runners in scoring position — with four of those batters striking out.
“That is a good stat,” King said about the 0-for-5. “But, we got a couple big hits when we needed them.”
And Bosway — one of the top hitters in Southwest Ohio — had unthinkably struck out in his first two trips to the plate.
“Motivated, yes,” Bosway said. “I was thinking about the way he had pitched me the first two times.”
And Bosway was pretty sure what he was going to see.
“He had been throwing a lot more curveballs than fastballs,” Bosway said. “So, I figured that was what was coming.”
And Bosway launched a first-pitch curveball over rightfielder Owen Arix’s head for a double to tie the game.
“Nate (Bosway) may have struck out twice, but he really nailed that one,” King said.
Bosway knew it when he hit it.
“I saw the rightfielder jump, but I was pretty sure it was going to be over his head,” he said.
That brought up Parker Riley, Lehman’s ace on the mound.
“I just knew I needed to get a hit,” Riley said. “I just wanted to make sure I swung at a good pitch.”
He drilled a ball down the leftfield line and King was sending Bosway home all the way.
When the throw was up the line, Bosway scored easily to give Lehman a 2-1 lead.
“I knew he was going to send me,” Bosway said. “As I was coming towards the plate, I saw the catcher move up the line (to get the throw) and I knew I was in.”
Then, Schutt showed his defensive prowess in the sixth.
John Little had a leadoff single for the Eagles, but Schutt threw him out stealing second.
“Defense is something I take a lot of pride in,” Schutt said.
With two outs, Kaleb Hill had an infield single and throw to first was wide.
Hustling down the line, Schutt grabbed the ball on the ricochet off the fence in front of the Lehman dugout — and Lehman shortstop Dylan Arnold simply had to wait for Hill, trying to go to second, to arrive to end the inning.
“I guess they didn’t expect me to be there (backing up the play),” Schutt said.
It give Riley a big lift.
“It was awesome,” Riley said. “Most catchers probably don’t do that, but Max (Schutt) does. I have so much confidence in my defense behind me.”
“What a hustle play by Max Schutt,” he said.
It was more of the same in the seventh.
Third baseman Brandon Barhorst stabbed a line drive to start the inning and with two outs, Ian Smith made a diving catch to end the game.
“How about that play by Ian Smith in right field,” King said. “Owen Smith had a play in left field earlier on foul ball.”
Riley, now 13-0 on the season, set a school record for a single season with his 13th win.
“He put up six zeroes in a row against a pretty good team,” King said. “And our defense made a lot of big plays behind him.”
Reedsville Eastern had gotten its only run in the first.
With one out, Little had a bunt single. Riley had him picked off, but he was able to get behind first baseman Bosway in the rundown, which proved important.
“That’s baseball,” King said.
After Little stole second, Richmond helped his cause with a RBI single.
Hill followed with a RBI single, but Riley got a double-play ball from Arnold to Tyler Lachey to Bosway to end the inning.
Riley seemed to find a groove, retiring 12 of the next 14. He pitched a seven-hitter, striking out two.
“I was a little nervous in the first inning,” he said. “I just needed to settle down.”
In the second, a walk to Arnold and single by Ian Smith put runners on second and third with two out.
In the fourth, Schutt was hit by a pitch and Arnold doubled to put runners on second and third with one out.
In the sixth, Arnold had a leadoff double and was sacrificed to third by Stephen Monnin.
And while Lehman came up empty on all those opportunities, Bosway and Riley delivered in the fifth.
“We may not have been good with runners in scoring position (2-for-11), but we got a couple hits when we needed them,” King said.
And now Lehman has a big opportunity after coming up short in the regional semifinals a year ago.
“Same field, different result,” Bosway said. “This will be my first time in the regional finals.”
And the winning formula will be the same today — starting with the pitching.
“We will just see who we are playing and who is available,” King said about his pitching situation. “Everybody needs to be ready to contribute.”
Just like they did in Thursday’s win.
Rob Kiser is Sports Editor for the Daily Call. He can be reached at (937) 451-3334.