Ohio Spotlight Game: D-III State Semifinal - #3 Champion vs Clear Fork



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By: Bruce Hefflinger
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Ohio Spotlight Game: D-III State Semifinal - #3 Champion vs Clear Fork

COLUMBUS – Champion is one win away from the name fitting.

The Golden Flashes scored the tie-breaking run the top of the seventh and Drake Batcho completed a four-hit gem with a one-two-three bottom of the inning to lift Champion past Clear Fork 2-1 in the Division III state semifinal on Thursday morning at Huntington Park.

Pinch hitter Noah Gradishar led off the Champion seventh with a single to right and, after a strikeout and Justin Taninecz running for Gradishar, Kyle Forrest walked on a 3-2 pitch.

Jarod Smith then came on in relief of starter Mitch Dulin, who had reached 120 pitches, and went to a full count on Michael Turner before the Kent State recruit singled sharply to left. A bobble in left field plated Taninecz with what proved to be the winning run.

The Flashes took a 1-0 lead off Dulin in the second on a Batcho double, AJ Meyer single and run-scoring hit from sophomore shortstop Andrew Russell.

Clear Fork evened the score in the last of the third on an RBI single by Hunter Boyer to score Hunter Auck who opened the frame with a base hit.

It proved to be the only run off Batcho, who permitted just one more hit after the third inning, a Thomas Staab one-out single in the fifth. Jared Lind was then walked before a double play grounder ended the threat.

Batcho set Clear Fork down in order the last two innings, four on grounders and two on strikeouts. The hard-throwing left-hander finished with nine strikeouts while walking three in improving to 7-1 on the season.

Hot Takes

Stat of the game: Champion, which left at least one runner on base in every inning and nine for the game, had five of seven lead-off batters reach base in the victory. Both runs were scored by lead-off batters.

Mr. Clutch: After lining to the outfield his previous two trips to the plate, Michael Turner came through with a base hit to left field on a play that ended up scoring the game-winning run.

Unsung hero: Sitting on the bench the whole game, junior Noah Gradishar was summoned into the contest to pinch hit leading off the seventh. Quickly falling into an 0-2 hole at the plate, Gradishar came through with a bloop single over the head of first baseman Allen Blubaugh to get the Flashes started in the final inning.

Player of the game: A no-brainer choice with winning pitcher Drake Batcho throwing a four-hitter while contributing a single, two walks and a run scored at the dish.

Season finale: After not allowing a run in 4.2 innings in last year’s state semifinal, 6-5 sophomore Mitch Dulin followed it up with 6.1 frames of two-run ball to help keep the Colts in the game.

What’s next?: Champion looks forward to its first state final appearance in school history on Saturday at 10 a.m. Clear Fork, which has now lost in the state semis two consecutive years, has big expectations ahead with five returning starters (including one-two punch at top of the order Thomas Staab and Jared Lind) along with the top two pitchers, Dulin and Jalen Sheriff, coming back.

Linescore

Champion       010 000 1 - 2 9 0
Clear Fork       010 000 0 - 1 4 2

Records: Champion 26-3, Clear Fork 18-13

Winning Pitcher: Drake Batcho (7 innings, 1 run, 1 earned, 4 hits, 9 strikeouts, 3 walks).

Losing Pitcher: Mitch Dulin (6.1 innings, 2 runs, 2 earned, 8 hits, 5 strikeouts, 3 walks). Other: Jarod Smith.

Leading Hitters: (Champion) - Lucas Nasonti single; Kyle Forrest double; Michael Turner 2 singles; Drake Batcho double; AJ Meyer single; Andrew Russell 2 singles; Noah Gradishar single. (Clear Fork) - Thomas Staab single; Hunter Boyer single; Allen Blabaugh single Hunter Auck single.