Chiefs again find their magic in crunch time to win district crown
MASON — For the third straight game, Bellefontaine stared defeat square in the eyes in the late going of tournament play. And the resilient Chiefs again found a way to snatch away a victory
ABOVE: Bellefontaine’s Jarrod Houchin slides into second base during Saturday’s district championship game in Mason. FRONT PAGE PHOTO: Bellefontaine players hold up their Division II district championship trophy after beating New Richmond on Saturday in Mason. (EXAMINER PHOTOS | MATT HAMMOND AND TONY BARRETT)
Bellefontaine came up with two runs in the sixth inning to tie its Division II district title game against New Richmond before Drake Roebuck provided a huge two-run double in the top of the seventh to fuel a 4-2 victory Saturday at Mason High School.
“This team’s M.O. is we grind it out until the end,” said Roebuck, a senior outfielder who lined a 1-2 pitch down the left field line with two outs in the seventh to become the latest hero for a team full of clutch players. “We stay up in the dugout and we don’t get down. Eventually, we create an opportunity and take advantage of it.”
Bellefontaine (26-5) advances to face Jonathan Alder (24-4) in a regional semifinal at 5 p.m. Thursday at Wright State University. Franklin Monroe and Tippecanoe play in the other semifinal contest.
“Hats off to our kids,” said BHS head coach Art Caudill. “To be able to come out on top again is just amazing. I could not be more proud of them.”
Bellefontaine coach Art Caudill hugs infielder Cody Lyons following the final out of Saturday’s win over New Richmond.
In three of its four tournament games, Bellefontaine has needed a late comeback to stay alive.
New Richmond (25-6) put the Chiefs in an early hole this time, scoring two runs in the second inning for a 2-0 lead.
The Lions, who out-hit Bellefontaine 11-6, threatened many other times throughout the day. But Bellefontaine’s pitchers did an impressive job of wiggling out of jams.
With runners on second and third and two outs in the bottom of the third, Matt Entsminger was called on to relieve starter Kyle Brunner.
A junior left-hander, Entsminger induced a groundout to get out of the inning without any damage.
It was Entsminger’s first pitching appearance of the tournament.
“We have preached all year that you have to be ready when your number is called,” said Caudill. “I am so proud of him. He was huge today. He came in and got a big out when we really needed it.”
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Entsminger went on to throw scoreless innings in the fourth and fifth.
Sophomore right-hander Tyler Jones was summoned in the sixth and allowed just one hit in his two scoreless innings.
That allowed Bellefontaine’s offense an opportunity for more late-game heroics.
An infield single by Jarrod Houchin and two walks loaded the bases for the Chiefs with one out in the top of the sixth.
Connor Burton then lifted a fly ball into short right that the New Richmond first baseman caught with his back to the infield. Houchin tagged up at third and had enough time to race home for Bellefontaine’s first run of the game.
Jones was next up. He hit a high pop fly that drifted a few feet into the grass behind third base. Three New Richmond players came together in an effort to get to the ball, but none took control and it dropped to the turf.
That allowed Roebuck to trot home with the tying run.
Bellefontaine continued to get to a fatigued New Richmond starter Levi Simpson in the seventh.
Nick Burton was hit by a pitch leading off the top of the seventh. Gauge Hayman then attempted to bunt, but he got the ball in the air and it was caught for the first out of the inning.
Cody Lyons followed with a walk. After a groundout, Roebuck turned on a Simpson pitch and sent it bouncing down the third-base line. Burton sprinted home to score the go-ahead run and Lyons also scored to put the Chiefs up 4-2.
“(Simpson) was starting to struggle,” said Roebuck. “His off-speed stuff wasn’t doing much. I got the pitch I liked and I was able to hit it hard.”
Roebuck bats in the four hole for the Chiefs, hitting behind the team’s best hitter in Houchin.
“People have challenged Drake all year,” said Caudill. “They try to pitch around Jarrod, but Drake has made them pay.”
Jones, who has emerged as one of the area’s top young pitchers this spring, breezed through the bottom of the seventh. He struck out the first batter and then got a groundout and flyout to end the game and send the Chiefs to the regionals for the second time in three years.
“When I took over, my goal was for the program to carry on the winning tradition from the past,” said Caudill. “Our kids have done a great job of believing in what we do and carrying on that tradition.”
Houchin had two of Bellefontaine’s six hits.
The Chiefs will now see a team that is used to making it deep into the postseason. Jonathan Alder won a state title in 2010 and has claimed five straight district championships. The Pioneers fell to Defiance in last year’s state championship game.
For more on Thursday’s regional semifinal, see Wednesday’s edition of the Examiner.
BELLEFONTAINE 4, NEW RICHMOND 2
Chiefs 000 002 2 — 4 6 0
Lions 020 000 0 — 2 11 1