Ohio Spotlight Game: D-I State Semifinal - #1 Massillon Jackson vs #12 Lakota West

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By: Bruce Hefflinger
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Ohio Spotlight Game: D-I State Semifinal - #1 Massillon Jackson vs #12 Lakota West

COLUMBUS – Massillon Jackson made an early statement against Lakota West in the Division I state semifinal on Friday.

The Polar Bears ripped four hits, were aided by a West error and took a 4-0 lead in the top of the first en route to a 5-1 win over the Firebirds to advance to the state finals for the second time in four years.

Cade Mottice and Dillon Dingler pounded out singles off West starter Jake Kates before Jake Mottice bunted and reached on a throwing error that plated his twin brother. A Kyle Nicolas two-run single to left made it 3-0 and Jack Dear completed the uprising with a two-out RBI single to bring home Nicolas.

A four-run deficit was too much for West against Nicolas, a Ball State recruit that improved to 8-0 on  the season. The hard-throwing right-hander did not permit a hit until a Chase Wullenweber single to lead off the fourth. But Nicolas promptly fanned the side.

The 12th-rated Firebirds scored their only run in the fifth on an Eric Hooper double and Frankie Schmitt single.

However, the Greater Miami Conference champions could only muster a walk off Nicolas the rest of the game.

Meanwhile, the top-ranked team in the state padded its lead in the top of the seventh on a hit-by-pitch, a fielder’s choice and a Dingler run-scoring single, the third hit of the game for the ninth-rated player in the 2017 class.

Hot Takes

Defensive help: On more than one occasion Jackson third baseman Cade Mottice came up with impressive plays. But the best defensive play of the game came in the last of the seventh in the outfield. With a runner on first and nobody out for Lakota West, Hooper laced what appeared to be a gap shot to right-center field. However, right fielder Nick Harrison ran down the apparent hit for out number one of the inning.

First action: Lakota West junior Keegan Fish saw his first action of the season in a pinch hitting role in the bottom of the seventh. An Ohio State recruit, the junior catcher tore his meniscus in basketball and did not play all season. Fish, who walked in his plate appearance, is ranked 11th in the 2018 class and number one among catchers.

Player of the game: Nicolas allowed West to reach second base in just two innings in another dominating performance, though his 0.43 ERA did go up. The righty put seven Firebirds down on strikes while walking just one in the three-hit effort.

Nicolas on state: “It’s an amazing atmosphere here so it would be weird if you didn’t have any nerves. Definitely coming out hot right from the beginning definitely helped.”

Season finale: Kates, who is headed to play at Division I High Point in North Carolina, gave up but two hits after Jackson exploded for six hits out of the first dozen batters. The right-handed hurler who bats left,  is projected to play in the field in college. Kates retired 11 in a row and 13 out of 14 before the Polar Bears scored one in the seventh off of the West senior, who entered the game with a 10-1 record and 0.32 ERA.

What’s next?: Bryce Johnson, Fish and shortstop AJ Petersen are the key returnees for the Firebirds, which had a roster of 10 seniors. On Saturday, Jackson looks to accomplish the double of boys basketball and baseball state titles in the same school year. Dingler and Nicolas were part of the roundball crown.


Jackson         400 000 1 - 5 8 1
Lakota West  000 010 0 - 1 3 2  

Records: Jackson 29-2, Lakota West 25-6.

Winning Pitcher: Kyle Nicolas (7 innings, 1 run, 1 earned, 3 hits, 7 strikeouts, 1 walk).

Losing Pitcher: Jake Krates (7 innings, 5 runs, 2 earned, 8 hits, 3 strikeouts, 1 walk).

Leading Hitters: (Jackson) - Cade Mottice single; Dillon Dingler 3 singles; Kyle Nicolas single; Davis Graham single; Jack Dear single; Nick Harrison single. (Lakota West) - Chase Wullenweber single; Eric Hooper double; Frankie Schmitt single.