Immediate Release –Sports
May 8, 2017
Sinclair baseball wins OCCAC Regular Season Title then graduates 11 in same day
Dayton, Ohio – Sinclair’s boys of summer won the 2017 OCCAC regular season baseball title on the last game of the last weekend of the conference season.
Sinclair entered the home weekend series with #13 Cuyahoga needing to win 3 out of the 4 games to clinch the title. This was a matchup of two nationally ranked teams and two strong conference foes. Sinclair ranked 14th nationally, entered the weekend with a 37-11 overall record and 14-2 in conference play. The visitors from up north Cuyahoga, traveled to Sinclair’s home field at Athletes in Action ranked 13th and with an equally impressive 38-9 overall record and 15-1 conference mark.
The six team conference came down to these two teams as both clubs dominated all opponents throughout the regular season creating a comfortable lead for both. But the two teams were destined for a classic end of year collision, winner take all.
Both teams proved early that the conference was a two team race and it would come down to the final four games. Dominating the weekly honors, both teams had strong pitching with 4 pitchers each named OCCAC Pitchers of the Week. Sinclair had just a little edge over Cuyahoga as the Pride collected 5 Player of the Week honors to just 3 from Tri-C.
All records aside, the back to back doubleheaders would end all speculation on who was going to raise the OCCAC banner and head directly to NJCAA Region XII tournament in Battle Creek. The loser would immediately turn around and host the Region XII Sub-Regional on Friday for the last spot to advance to the Region XII tournament in Battle Creek. The Sub-Regional is a blind draw from the remaining top four teams in the region playing in a single elimination one day tournament for the last qualifying spot.
Having to move the games back a day due to inclement weather, the Challengers of Cuyahoga rolled into Grady’s Field sporting a 21 game winning streak and had not lost since April 9th. To thicken the drama, both teams were throwing last week’s OCCAC Co-Pitchers of the Week in game one; Anthony Savarino (Cuyahoga) against Kyle Ruenlman (FR/RHP – Milford H.S.) (Sinclair).
As expected, a true pitchers dual with Sinclair up 1-0 heading into the bottom of the 5th. By the time smoke had cleared and the 5th inning was over, Sinclair had scored 5 runs on the previously unbeaten Savarino. That was all the insurance Ruehlman needed as he finished off the Challengers with a complete game one hit victory. The 6-1 Sinclair victory ended Cuyahoga’s 21 game winning streak and moved the Pride one game closer to the conference title.
The second game of the day was a one run thriller that had a little bit of everything. Each inning had its own excitement with hits runs and errors. After three, Cuyahoga was up 5 to 1 before the Sinclair bats came alive. The Pride rallied for 3 runs over the next two innings to get within one run heading into the top of the 5th. Once again the visitors found a couple of key hits and 2 runs to push the lead back out to 7-4. Not to be out done, Sinclair plated two runs in the bottom of the fifth to keep within striking distance and pull back to 7-6.
Sinclair was able to tie the game with a single run in the bottom of the 6th and needed the bullpen to keep the Challengers at bay in the top of the 7th. Sinclair was on a run that had them scoring 6 runs over the last 4 innings and had the Cuyahoga pitchers in the ropes. All the Pride needed to do, 3 up and 3 down in the top of the 7th and the Sinclair bats would take care of the rest.
Cuyahoga had other plans as they were able to push across the lead run in the top of the inning, backing Sinclair into a corner and needing one to tie and two to win. Down to their last three outs, once again Sinclair delivered with two clutch runs to win game two 9-8 and sweep the opening doubleheader. The offensive star of the game for Sinclair was Centerfielder Brandon Henson (FR/CF – Pickerington Central H.S.) as he belted out two home runs and collected 6 RBI’s.
Coming into the series, Sinclair needed to win 3 out of 4 to clinch and after Saturday’s doubleheader sweep the Pride only needed to win one on graduation Sunday.
Sunday did not start out as planned as Cuyahoga regrouped and found success at the plate. The Challengers jumped out to a 6-1 lead and held on down the stretch for a 7-4 game three victory. The win also stopped the growing Sinclair momentum from the previous day and placed the OCCAC Championship into a one game winner take all final contest.
As expected, the tensions was extremely high for the one game showdown for the OCCAC banner and a direct trip to the Regional Tournament.
After holding Cuyahoga scoreless in the top of the first, Sinclair put an important run on the board early. Leading off, Blaze Glenn (FR/3B – Toronto H.S.) roped a line drive to left to open the game. Glenn then swipes second to get into scoring position with nobody out before Trevor Hafner (FR/SS – Perrysburg H.S.) moved him over to third with a long fly to center. Sean Darmafall (FR/IF – Elyria Catholic H.S.) then steps to the plate with one out and ropes a hard hit single to right to score Glenn from third.
Up 1-0 heading into the bottom to the third, Blaze Glenn once again singled but this time with one out. Darmafall advanced to first after being hit by a pitch, moving Glenn to second now with two outs. Locked in a pitchers dual, Sinclair needed to find a way to get one maybe two insurance runs. Just want Coach Dintaman ordered, Brandon Henson laced a single up the middle to score Glenn who was already moving on the pitch. The Sinclair threat was quickly squashed as Cuyahoga was able to get out of the inning but not before Sinclair had opened a 2-0 lead.
Not knowing how important that two out single would be, Sinclair took to the field up 2-0 in the fourth. Sinclair’s starting pitcher, Jake Dennis (FR/LHP – Licking Valley H.S.) made one mistake. With one out in the top of the 4th and the bases empty, Cuyahoga’s Mark Starcovic homered to right field to close the gap back to one run (2-1).
The game remained 2-1until the top of the 5th. Cuyahoga was able to open the inning with a walk followed by a bunt that caused a crazy series of events. On the Sinclair errant throw, both runners were able to advance. As the Tri-C lead runner advanced around third, it looked like he slipped and the Sinclair throw caught him too far off third. That made for an easy play at the plate as the tag was made for the first out. After that little excitement, Sinclair was able to get out of the inning unharmed dodging the tying run.
Down to the final three our for the visiting team and needing one run to tie, Cuyahoga doubled to left field to open the inning. Trying to make a play at second, Sinclair’s left fielder overthrew the play at second base allowing to the lead runner to advance to third with nobody out. Knowing that the runner at third represented the tying run, it was in the hands of the Sinclair bullpen. Relief pitcher Jack Goonan (FR/RHP – Ayersville H.S.) could have made a fatal error as he unleashed a wild pitch.
All the hours of specialty work between pitcher and catcher would come to pay off and in the top of the 7th of the final game. As the wild pitch went to the backstop, instincts and hours of practice kicked in. Catcher Aron Mowery (FR/C – Marysville H.S.) immediately turned and sprinted to the ball as Goonan sprinted to home. It now became a race between the only three players that mattered in the race for the OCCAC banner.
Mowery with little hesitation while sliding into the ball next to the backstop, gathers and fired a perfect strike in one motion to covering pitcher Goonan just in time to tag the runner at home for the first out of the inning.
Now with nobody on base and one out, the Sinclair bullpen was able to close the deal. The final out came with a strike out as once again the Tartan Pride continued a tradition – the dogpile. Winning 3 out of 4 games over two day, Sinclair was the OCCAC Regular Season Champs for the 7th time in the last 9 years.
The day ended after everyone was able to untangle from the traditional celebration with a trip back to the University of Dayton Arena. Little over an hour after winning the championship, 11 newly crowned conference champs walked across the stage in the Big Room to receive degrees – some of them still wearing their game uniforms.
The Pride will play a couple of non-conference games this week tuning up for a return to Battle Creek for the NJCAA Division II Region XII baseball tournament starting next week.