Tigers fall to Athens, 9-8, in regional slugfest
In a game with 29 total hits, it was a bases-loaded hit batter in the 10th inning which proved to be the difference as the Bulldogs claimed a 9-8 victory in Friday’s Division II regional semifinal at Bob Wren Stadium, ending Marietta’s season.
The Tigers held leads of 4-0 and 8-5 in the game, but the Bulldogs never stopped clawing back. Three runs in the sixth tied things up at 8-all, and in the top of the 10th, Turner Hill’s 2-1 offering to Joseph Thomas clipped the Athens shortstop’s jersey to plate the go-ahead run. Athens reliever Brendan Sano held the Tigers scoreless over the final five innings, including a 1-2-3 frame in the bottom of the 10th, to send his team to Saturday’s regional final against Steubenville.
“Our mantra all year long has been if we’ve got bats in our hand, we believe we have a chance,” said Athens head coach Chris Stewart. “Guys just proved that to be true again tonight.”
Last year, Sano and Athens blanked Marietta 1-0 in a district final. However, there was much more offensive action this time around.
The Tigers (24-4) jumped all over Athens starter Brody Rodgers for four runs in the bottom of the first. Zach Deskins’ sacrifice fly plated Hill before Isaac Danford drove in two runs on a triple. Danny Hiser then plated Danford on an RBI single to right to make it 4-0.
Athens slowly chipped away, getting to Marietta starter Brandon Schamp for a run in the second and two apiece in the third and fourth to tie things up at 5-all.
MHS retook the lead in the fourth on Hiser’s two-out RBI knock, then added two runs off Sano in the fifth on Hill’s two-run triple to the left-center gap.
Athens (24-3) went back to work in the top of the sixth, putting runners on the corners with two outs to chase Schamp. With Hill on in relief, Brock Stewart punched an RBI single to center to make it 8-6. Two batters later, Thomas came through with a two-out, two-run single to knot the score. He got his third RBI four innings later on the hit-by-pitch.
“I didn’t expect it to be a high-scoring game, but I expected it to be a battle like this was,” said Marietta head coach Jim Thrash. “Just came down to a little thing in the last inning. They did a great job fighting back. We fought back after we gave the lead up. There were all the elements of a really fine game.”
Sano and Hill exchanged zeroes from innings 7-9. The Tigers had two on and two out in the seventh, but Sano got Trent Dawson to ground out to preserve the tie.
In total, Sano worked six innings, fanning six and walking one to earn the win. Hill took the loss, going 4 1-3 with five Ks and two bases on balls.
“I have every bit of confidence in Turner,” Thrash said. “He threw tremendous. The kid hadn’t given up an earned run until that one on a brushed jersey.”
Both starters struggled to keep hitters off balance. Rodgers worked four innings with a strikeout and one walk. Schamp, who took the mound in Marietta’s sectional and district championships, went 5 2-3 with six strikeouts and two walks.
“I was surprised he threw Schamp,” said Stewart, whose team practiced against right-handed pitching all week. “I was expecting Dawson. I thought they might save Schamp for the final.
“They’re just loaded with pitching.”
The nine runs was the most Marietta had surrendered in a game all season.
“Schamp gave it all he could,” Thrash said. “Athens is good hitting team. We had our chance to pour it on and we let it slip through our fingers.”
Brock Stewart led Athens with three hits, while Andy Kostival, Sano, Thomas, Cam Kasler and Nate Trainer all had two.
Hiser was 3 for 5 for the Tigers, while Hill, Matthew Earley and Kail Hill notched two hits apiece.
Friday’s defeat brings an end to the high school careers of 10 MHS seniors: Hiser, Dawson, Danford, Deskins, Schamp, Turner Hill, Brandon Neville, Boyd Bingler, Will Eschbaugh and Noah Miller. It was also Thrash’s final game as Marietta’s head coach.
“It’s going to be a quiet bus ride home I think,” said the Tigers’ vetaran skipper. “They love each other. We love them. I’m really proud of how they battled today. You come up short sometimes, and unfortunately, today was the day.”