Flat tire may have been an omen

CAMBRIDGE – Frontier High benefitted from a lift on the highway Monday, but couldn’t get one on the diamond.

The Cougars’ team bus had a flat tire on I-77 North in Noble County, near Caldwell. But fortunately several parents and fans had been trailing the bus, and were able to transport the team to Don Coss Field in Cambridge in time for its scheduled 5 p.m. Ohio Division IV district semifinal baseball game against Strasburg High.

Turns out that the flat may have been some kind of omen as FHS (11-11) was shut out, 2-0, by Strasburg (18-10) and ousted from tournament play. Not only were the Cougars blanked but also went hitless in the process as Tigers’ pitcher Jay DiBacco tossed a no-hitter.

“It was a good game,” said first-year Frontier skipper Kurt Satterfield. “I thought if we got into one of those kind of games, we’d win it. But, we played good, and I’m proud of the boys. We probably overachieved a little bit, I think, this year. In the last couple of (tournament) games, Shadyside and them (Strasburg), we were hanging right with two good teams.”

With sophomore right-hander Brent West on the bump, seventh-seeded Frontier upset second-seeded Shadyside (16-7), 3-2, last Wednesday. In that contest, the Cougars made the most of just four hits.

The following day, FHS hosted Fort Frye in a Pioneer Valley Conference makeup game and suffered a 14-0 mercy setback to the Cadets, whose pitcher Derek Layton threw a no-no. Clearly, though, the Cougars were thinking ahead to Strasburg.

“You know, we practiced all weekend with the machine throwing harder,” Satterfield said. “We figured to see a hard thrower, and we threw the curveballs with it (machine). But it’s different with live pitching.”

DiBacco, a junior, was definitely a hard thrower with a good curve – and a solid defense behind him.

“Jay actually struggled a little bit halfway through the season,” said Strasburg head coach Mike Becker. “But in his last couple of outings – he didn’t get the wins to show it – you could see that he was turning the corner, and tonight (vs. Frontier) he put it altogether.”

FHS really didn’t come close to getting a hit off DiBacco, although Zach Cunningham and Aaron Ott each hit the ball hard to third base and to the box, respectively.

Interestingly, the Cougars never got the ball out of the infield against DiBacco. And, of the Tiger hurler’s eight strikeouts, three were looking.

“(DiBacco) deserves a lot of credit,” Satterfield said. “He’s definitely a heckuva pitcher. He got us looking, and we don’t strike out looking very often – and that hurts.”

Frontier was also unlucky as West almost got out of a big time fifth inning jam, and would have if a routine flyball to left hadn’t been dropped. On the error, the sun might have been a factor. Instead, Strasburg scored two unearned runs, which stood up at the end.

“I hope we’re back here again next year, same time,” Satterfield said. “I hope it’s the same weather (sunny).”

And, if the Cougars do return, they could do without the flat tire.

Ron Johnston is a Marietta Times sports writer, and can be reached at (740)373-2121, x534, or at rjohnston@mariettatimes.com