By Bryant Billing
MARION — A disastrous first inning in a Northwest Central Conference game at Elgin cost Lehman Catholic a share of the league title. And while it can’t be fixed, coach Dave King hopes it taught the squad two valuable lessons heading into the tournament next week.
Elgin took advantage of two errors and scored five runs in the first inning on Wednesday in a 9-4 win. Lehman outhit the Comets 10-7 the rest of the way but struggled to move runners in scoring position.
“I liked the fight that we did have, but we have some guys hitting and some guys not,” King said. “This is not the time to go funk. You need to tune it up. I think we grew a little bit, and that’s good. Maybe I need to change the lineup around to where all the guys are hitting in a row, because right now, we’re leaving too many guys on base.”
Aside from hitting consistently, King hopes the team can limit the errors through the rest of the season.
“Too many errors, and way too many walks, and you can’t have that in a championship game,” King said. “… I like our fight. If we learn, we’ll be all right. We’ve got a lot of people still to play and the tournament in front of us.”
Elgin secured the NWCC title with the win. The Comets (15-6) are 7-0 in league play. Lehman (11-6) dropped to 4-1 in conference play with the loss.
The Cavaliers will face Riverside in a nonconference game at 7 p.m. on Thursday at Fifth Third Field. Lehman beat the Pirates 14-3 in NWCC action on April 9.
Lehman didn’t arrive in Marion until after 4:40 p.m. and looked a little stiff after a long bus ride and short warmup period.
Elgin scored five runs in the first, including two on a single by No. 4 hitter Jacob Neal. Lehman had one walk and two errors to aid the Comets’ effort.
Lehman scored a run in the first on an RBI single by Bryce Kennedy and loaded the bases in the fourth. Elgin walked in a run with one out but then had a double play to end the inning on a call that drew the ire of Lehman’s dugout. Tyler Lachey was called out at first on the double play for interference, which King argued he didn’t see.
Elgin scored three runs in the sixth to pull away. Lehman narrowed the final deficit with two runs in the seventh.
Kennedy was 3 for 4 with 1 RBI, Brandon Barhorst was 3 for 4 and Owen Smith was 2 for 4 with 2 RBIs.
Drew Barhorst picked up the loss on the mound. He pitched five innings and allowed five earned runs on six hits.
Elgin had nine hits and two errors while Lehman had 10 hits and five errors.
The Cavaliers were voted the No. 3 seed in the Dayton III and IV Division IV sectional. They’ll face the winner of No. 6 Jackson Center and No. 12 Covington in a second-round game on May 9. With a win, the Cavaliers would likely face defending Div. IV runner-up Russia in a sectional final.
“It wasn’t the greatest draw, but you’ve got to beat people and you’ve got to out-pitch people,” King said. “You’ve got to out-play them, and we just had a rough start. That hurt us today. …We bounced back, we didn’t lay down. We could have laid down but we didn’t.”
Aside from Thursday’s game against Riverside in Dayton, Lehman has regular season games left at home against Hardin Northern on Saturday and against Lima Perry on May 11.