The old baseball saying of ‘a walk is as good as a hit’ couldn’t have been more true for the Jonathan Alder baseball team during a Division II district title game played at Beavers Field in Lancaster on Thursday, May 22.
The Pioneers used three bases-loaded walks to secure itself a 5-1 victory over Bexley to win its fifth straight D-II Central district championship, becoming the first Central District school to accomplish the feat in Division II.
“It’s never been accomplished as far as I know in Division II in Central Ohio,” Alder coach Craig Kyle said. “In my opinion it’s one of the toughest divisions to win. I knew we were up there and I usually don’t talk about records, but when you do something nobody has done before, there’s not too many people breathing that air.
“All we talked about was winning No. 5 and it’s a testament to this program not to just these guys but also the alumni that are out here, guys that were here when we started it and I said we were going to build a program that would stand the test of time.”
Patience at the plate became the name of the game as Luke Nees earned a second inning free pass with the bases loaded to allow Zach Ary to score. Bret Yutzy did the trick in the fifth inning and Casey Graber worked a full count before earning his pass also in the fifth to push the advantage to 5-1.
“We’re aggressive at the plate but we also have an approach that we’re not going to swing at the pitcher’s pitches we’re going to go after our pitches,” Kyle said. “We were aggressive early in the count but we’re not going to swing to swing and the guys executed the plan.
“It’s nothing different than what we do any other time, we want to be aggressive but we also want to be smart and get in plus counts.”
Kyle always stresses the importance of scoring early. His Pioneers did just that by plating a pair of runs in the first inning. Back-to-back-to-back first inning singles by Jon Peters, Trent Kaltenbach and Luke Nees loaded the bases for Scott Peters who hit a sacrifice fly to center making it 1-0.
A Cody Rankin roller to third was thrown wide by Bexley’s Alex Shapiro allowing Kaltenbach to score and make it 2-0 after the first inning.
The lead ballooned to 3-0 when Nees drew his bases loaded walk in the home half of the second.
“The biggest difference in the game was coming out and scoring early,” Kyle said. “I don’t know what it is, but the teams that score first usually end up winning in high school baseball. I thought our guys were relaxed and came out ready to play.”
A third inning double by Bexley’s Josh Shapiro plated a run but a heady backup of home plate by the starting pitcher Eye allowed him to fire a strike to third base and cut down Shapiro trying to advance on the overthrow of home.
The district championship game started almost an hour later than originally scheduled after a D-III district final between Elgin and Liberty Union went 10 innings.
Alder advances to play in a D-II regional semifinal at Wright State University at 5 p.m. on Thursday, May 29.
Chris Miles can be reached at (740) 852-1616, ext. 18 or via Twitter @MadPressSports.