Mark Schmetzer reports
Lakota East cleanup hitter Alex Corna was the potential tying run, but Harrison coach Shawn Sowders had no problem walking him intentionally with two outs and a two-run lead in the seventh inning of their Division I sectional championship game Thursday at Kings.
Jarret Rindfleisch turned potential into reality. The junior catcher, playing just his third game after being injured before the season started, hit a two-run double to tie the score, and the Thunderhawks scored four runs in the eighth before holding on for an 8-7 win.
“I was nervous, but I knew I could do it,” Rindfleisch said about hitting after Corna was walked.
“It was a no-brainer,” Sowders said of the decision. “There are things in that game I would go back and change if I could, but that’s not one of them. I would’ve walked him even if they had runners on first and second. Even when he misses, it sounds good.”
Lakota East (16-13), the defending Division I state champion, will meet Moeller, the Enquirer’s Division I coaches poll champion and the No. 3 team in the Associated Press Division I statewide poll, in a district championship game Saturday at 11 a.m. at Western Hills.
Harrision (20-6), the Enquirer’s No. 5 team, had won 13 of its last 15 games going into Thursday, but the Wildcats couldn’t cash in on opportunities. They left 12 runners on base and allowed the Thunderhawks to score all of their runs with two outs.
“We didn’t get the job done,” Sowders said. “Hats off to (the Thunderhawks). They didn’t quit. They got the hits when they needed to.”
That was the Lakota East team coach Ray Hamilton watched for most of the season.
“We showed a lot of heart today,” he said. “Dang. That was the way we played up to about two weeks ago. Good things were happening for us. Then they weren’t happening.”
Senior Jake Gollaway, Harrison’s starting pitcher, helped the Wildcats take a 4-0 lead, capping their four-run second with a massive three-run homer to center field off of left-hander Michael Conrad that easily cleared the 380-foot sign.
The Thunderhawks weren’t concerned, according to Rindfleisch said.
“We knew Mike would hold them, and we knew we could hit,” Rindfleisch said.
Lakota East cut the deficit in half in the fifth when Blake Wilder drove in one run with a double and scored a second on Corna’s single.
That set the stage for the seventh, which started when Brett Colburn was called safe on a ground ball after the base umpire ruled that first baseman Jeremy Hochscheid came off the bag while stretching to take the throw. After two fly balls, Corna was walked, giving Rindfleisch his chance.
“Not at all,” Hamilton said when asked if he was surprised Corna was walked. “If you look at the numbers and the statistics on the computer, his power numbers are off the charts.”
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