Rivals Warren, Marietta meet in sectional baseball championship today
Warren’s 11-1 upset win over top-seeded Unioto in a Division II sectional semifinal Tuesday set up a rivalry showdown in the sectional finals.
The Warriors will play host to Marietta at 5 p.m. today, with the winner advancing to Monday’s district semifinal in Athens.
It was all Tigers in the regular season as MHS defeated Warren 9-1 back in March in the Washington County Tournament and then won again 5-4 on April 16 at Legion Field.
However, Warren (17-7) has proven to be a strong baseball team of late, having won nine games in a row. Against the Sherman Tanks Tuesday, Warren hit, pitched and fielded well en route to the victory.
“We made one error late in the game,” Warren head coach Ryan Lemley recalled. “In tournament time, when you’re playing good defense and swinging the sticks the way we are, that’s tough to beat.”
Kurt Taylor pitched six strong innings to net the win, but will be unavailable against Marietta. Lemley still has options, with Brett Gandee (6-4 record, 3.48 ERA), Seth Dennis (3-0, 2.85) and Drew Huffman (2.10, five saves) all ready to take the mound.
The Tigers (17-10) had a little trouble early against Waverly in their section semi Monday, but rallied for a 13-7 win. Kail Hill pitched five scoreless innings of relief to earn the win.
“The perseverance they showed the other night was unbelievable,” said Marietta head coach Josh McKitrick. “Knowing it’s one and done and to get down 5-0 — they’re heads weren’t down. We knew we could score runs, we just had to chip away.”
Despite having won nine straight games against their rivals, the Tigers aren’t taking this Warren club lightly.
“We just need to play our game,” McKitrick said. “It’s going to be a battle. Warren is on a good streak right now. They’re well coached. They’ll be ready to go. Whichever team executes their game better is going to come out on top.”
Added Lemley, “They’ve had our number a little bit of late. We were kind of looking for that opportunity. As soon as we saw the bracket, let’s get that rematch going. It should be a heck of a lot of fun.”
Both coaches agreed they would have liked this matchup to have come later in the tournament. McKitrick felt Marietta and Warren each deserved better seeds based on how they played in the regular season.
“Our guys are super excited to get a chance to play Warren again,” said McKitrick. “I don’t see (Warren’s win vs. Unioto) as an upset. Warren is a top four team in our district and so are we. We should be playing for a district title, not a sectional title.”
McKitrick said he will hand the ball to either Derek Duckworth or Corbin Alkire who both have experience pitching against the Warriors.
“I feel great with those guys on the bump,” McKitrick said. “As long as the defense fields the ball — that’s been one of our weaknesses. We’ve struggled at times at backing our pitchers up. We’ve worked hard at that. If we can do that, I feel pretty confident.”
Lemley’s squad has now scored 20 runs combined in its first two tournament wins. Dennis leads Warren with a .439 batting average to go along with 22 runs-batted-in. Evan Gandee is hitting .358 and his 23 RBIs are a team-high. Huffman (.338, 20 RBIs), Taylor (.329, 18 RBIs), Brayden Gerber (.321, 18 RBIs), Brett Gandee (.321, 20 RBIs, two home runs), Hunter Vincent (.333) and Noah Edgell (one home run, 16 RBIs) give Warren threats up and down its lineup.
“Our kids have done a good job of staying the course at the plate,” Lemley said. “We’ve just had really good at-bats.”
Corbin Alkire leads Marietta with a .451 batting average and has driven in 17 runs with one home run. Dakota Miller is batting .425 with a team-best 22 RBIs and Kail Hill sports a .382 average with two homers and 18 RBIs. Adam Coil (.371, 18 RBIs), Cole Alkire (.351, 10 RBIs), Derek Duckworth (17 RBIs) and Jarrett Jackson (one home run, 16 RBIs) give the Tigers a more than formidable lineup.
Either Duckworth (1.92 ERA) or Corbin Alkire (2.46 ERA) are likely to toe the rubber for MHS.