Warren falls to Athens in district final
ATHENS — After knocking off a pair of tough pitchers to open tournament play, Warren High had its sights set on taking down the best hurler the district has to offer — Athens’ Brendan Sano.
The Warriors battled, but in the end Sano and the Bulldogs claimed a 6-1 win and a Division II Southeast District championship.
Sano, whose innings have been restricted this season due to an injury, limited the Warriors to just a run on four hits while striking out nine and walking three.
Warren had previously defeated Waverly’s Clayton Howell in a sectional final and Sheridan’s Dylan Dupler in a district semi.
“I thought we did a good job with our approach,” said Warren head coach Ryan Lemley. “Sano buckled down. Give them credit. He is as good as we’ve seen.”
Warren lefty Tanner Neal immediately gave up a double to leadoff batter Andy Kostival and an RBI single to Sano as the Warriors quickly fell into a 1-0 hole in the first. But Neal bounced back and put up scoreless frames in the second, third and fourth.
In the bottom of the fourth, Warren scored without getting a base hit. Neal led off with a walk and later stole second and went to third on a wild pitch. After Tanner Proctor walked, Chase Weihl hit a sharp grounder to shortstop Joseph Thomas, whose throw to second was misplayed, allowing everyone to advance, including Neal to home plate to tie it up at 1-all.
Athens, though, responded by loading the bases with no outs the following half-inning. Thomas bounced an RBI single to third to make it 2-1 and keep the bases-loaded, no-out jam in tact. But Neal got Cam Kasler to ground into a double play and Rece Lonas to ground out to first to limit the damage.
Warren threatened in the bottom of the fifth with two-out singles from Drew Huffman and Neal, but Sano got Bryce Gandee to ground out to second to preserve Athens’ lead.
The Bulldogs took full control in the top of the sixth, as Sano’s two-run double and Rodgers’ RBI single made it 5-1 and chased Neal from the mound.
Neal went 5 2-3 innings, walking five and fanning three in his final high school start.
“You got to give them a lot of credit,” Lemley said. “They put a lot of pressure on us the whole time. It seemed like we were always narrowly avoiding disaster.”
Athens tacked on another run in the top of the seventh, and other than Max Hapney’s leadoff single in the bottom of the seventh, Warren was unable to mount any type of comeback.
Athens (23-3) won its second straight district title and will play next Thursday in a regional semifinal at Gant Memorial Stadium in Zanesville.
Sano and Rodgers had three hits apiece for Athens, while Thomas added two.
Kostival, Sano, Rodgers and Brock Stewart all doubled while Sano notched four RBIs and a triple as well.
Warren’s season came to a close at 17-10.
Neal was 2 for 2 with a run scored, as eight Warren seniors had their prep careers come to a close.
“Hopefully down the road when we’re getting gold medals instead of silver, we can look back on today and say (these seniors) paved the way for that to happen,” Lemley said.