By Rob Kiser
PLEASANT HILL — Lehman Catholic baseball coach Dave King is a proponent of two-out hits.
He would have liked it even more Wednesday in a D-IV sectional title game against Russia at Newton High School if it was his team getting them.
Instead, it was Russia’s Daniel Kearns who delivered the big blow — a three-run double that propelled Russia to a 6-1 victory.
The Raiders, 18-8, advance to play in a D-IV district title game at 5 p.m. Friday at Tippecanoe Junior High against the Deer Park-Seven Hills winner.
Lehman closes the season at 15-10.
“I have always been a big fan of two-out hits,” King said. “Give them (Russia) credit. They got the big hits. We only had two hits. You can’t expect to win a game like this with two hits.”
Lehman had a 1-0 lead in the fourth inning — despite leaving eight runners on base in the first five innings as Hunter Cohee dodge one bullet after another.
“He was struggling a little bit,” Russia coach Kevin Phlipot said. “And the zone was a little tight. I have seen Hunter (Cohee) be better. I will say that.”
But, Cohee never stopped battling.
Cohee walked five in the first three innings, including three in the third — with the last one on four pitches to Owen Smith forcing in Brandon Barhorst with the first run of the game.
“When I could get ahead in the count, I was able to throw my curveball for strikes,” Cohee said.
But, after that fifth walk, Phlipot brought in Jack Dapore to get out of the inning — before re-inserting Cohee on the mound in the fourth.
“I didn’t plan on doing that,” Phlipot said about brining Cohee back in. “But, we started talking about it in the dugout. But, I was only giving him one batter — if he didn’t get that first guy, that was it.”
Cohee rose to the challenge, setting Lehman down in order. He went on to allow just one hit, before Dapore came back in for the seventh inning and gave up a second hit.
Cohee would walk seven while striking out eight, while Dapore had a strikeout and a walk.
Lehman took that 1-0 lead to the home fourth, with Jared Magoteaux pitching a one-hitter through the first three innings.
“I can’t say enough about the way Jared (Magoteaux) pitched,” King said. “He gave us a chance to win the game.”
That set the stage for Kearns’ big at bat.
An error, a walk and a single by Evan Monnier loaded the bases for Russia with two outs.
On a full-count — with the runners off on the pitch — Kearns hit a shot to rightfield that scored all three runners.
“We only had one hit the first time through the order,” Kearns said. “Coach is always talking about somebody needing to get the big hit. I saw the fastball coming and went to rightfield just like they teach us. It was a great feeling.”
Jordan York followed with a RBI singles to make it 4-1 and Cohee literally sprinted out to the mound for the fifth inning.
“Of course,” he said. “That is always going to get you fired up when your teammates delivers a big, bases-clearing hit. It gives you confidence.”
Will Sherman singled for Russia in the fifth and came around to score on a wild throw to first on an attempted double play — with Drew Barhorst on the mound for Lehman.
In the sixth, Mason Dapore singled and came around to score on Dion Puthoff’s single for the final run.
Magoteaux and Barhorst combined on a nine-hitter, striking out five and walking three, one intentionally.
“I thought this team really had a good season,” King said. “Nobody is going to feel sorry for you. We lose some good players, but we have some good kids coming back.”
And he couldn’t help but admire what Russia had done.
“That is a good team,” he said about the top seed. “They will ride their arms again this year. I believe every run they scored was with two outs.”
Which is something King has always been a fan of.
Rob Kiser is Sports Editor for the Daily Call. He can be reached at (937) 451-3334.