Special to the Register
It’s been a while since St. Mary Central Catholic has been able to compete.
A 10-day break from the baseball diamond was not exactly how Panther coach Ben Stover would have liked to prepare for Monday’s Division IV sectional championship game against Ottawa Hills at Dorn Park.
But the Panthers were able to score nine runs in two innings to beat Ottawa Hills 10-4 and advance to the district tournament for the third year in a row. Because of the weather delays, the turnaround for SMCC (16-6) is quick, as it faces Cardinal Stritch (13-9) at 2 p.m. Wednesday at Clyde High School.
Gibsonburg faces Toledo Christian at 4:30 p.m. in the other half of the bracket.
“We’re creatures of habit. Being off for 10 days, I was worried about today,” Stover said. “(Ottawa Hills) is a good team. Their record doesn’t indicate that, but I knew it was going to be a close game”
The Panthers were down 2-1 going into the bottom of the fifth, but put together a five-run inning to retake the lead.
Tanner Roth reached home on an error to tie the game at 2-2. On the next at-bat, Kyle Feyedelem earned an RBI single to right field to bring home Trevor Fitzthum. Brett St. Clair hit a two-run double to center field to increase the lead to 5-2. St. Clair was able to reach home when Green Bears pitcher R.J. Coil threw a wild pitch.
“I got some experienced guys in my lineup” Stover said. “By their third time through the lineup, they usually make adjustments as they need, and we hit some good balls out there. I was hoping it was coming sooner than later”
Deon Kerr struck out eight Ottawa Hills batters and allowed two runs in five innings on the mound for SMCC.
In the bottom of the sixth, Kerr started another successful Panther run with a single to left field. Roth responded with his second hit of the night with a shot to right field. Fitzthum and Feyedelem were both walked to load the bases and bring Roth home.
With three men on, St. Clair hit a double to clear the bases and increase the lead to 10-2. St. Clair had five RBIs on the night.
Panther relief pitcher Lucas Will allowed two runs in the top of the seventh, but kept the Green Bears from completing the comeback.
SMCC is looking for its first district tournament win since the 2004 season. It lost 6-0 to Colonel Crawford in last year’s semifinals, and lost a 2-1 game in extra innings to Buckeye Central in 2012.
“We definitely take it one game at a time,” Stover said. “I know we have our sights on bigger things, but if you don’t win today, tomorrow means nothing. We know what we have to do, it’s just a matter of getting it done. So we’ll bounce back and see what happens on Wednesday”
Ottawa Hills 000 020 2 — 4 4 4
SMCC 001 054 x —10 12 3
WP: Kerr; LP: Coil 2B: (STM) St. Clair (2)