BELLEFONTAINE — With Northmont and Tecumseh deadlocked in a 1-1 tie Brandt Cronebach led off the bottom of the sixth inning Thursday at Bellefontaine with a double that hit the lower portion of the fence in left field to put the go-ahead run in scoring position.
Cronebach proceeded to steal third base to stack the deck even further in Northmont’s favor. One out later Cameron Reaman singled to bring Cronebach home with what would prove to be the winning run, but not before Tecumseh pushed the Thunderbolts’ pitching staff to its limit.
Northmont pitchers struggled to find the strike zone all game forcing Coach Chuck Harlow to play Captain Hook four times with five different pitchers getting mound time.
Tecumseh loaded the bases with one out in the top of the seventh on a single by Nick Yeary, an intentional walk issued to Arrows top hitter Hunter Hensley (.349 average, three home runs, 24 RBI) followed by a nonintentional walk by Jack Dague. That brought Harlow out of the dugout once again as he brought Reaman in from right field to try to slam the door shut on Tecumseh.
Reaman got Keaton Mohler to hit a popup that first baseman Austin Kossoudji snared just behind the pitching mound for the second out. Reaman followed up by getting Reid Hale to hit a routine ground ball to second that Kamden Rottgen fielded and easily fired to first to seal the 2-1 victory.
That wasn’t the only bases loaded jam Reaman got the Thunderbolts out of. In the top of the fifth inning Tecumseh had the bases loaded with only one out when Reaman came up with a big play in right field. Dague hit a soft line drive down the right field line that Reaman raced over to snare, then turned and fired a bullet to the plate. Pinch runner Gavin Wasson had already left third base trying to score after the catch, but Reaman’s throw to catcher Tyler Liddy was right on the money. Liddy immediately fired the ball to third baseman Landon Hill and Wasson was dead meat. Wasson was trying to get back to third but had to hit the brakes when Hill took Liddy’s throw. Hill had no trouble racing up to put the tag on Wasson as he broke back toward the plate to complete the double play.
“Reaman had a heck of a day both on the mound and in right field when he threw a bullet to the plate to get that kid in a rundown to get him out,” Harlow said. “He made tons of catches out there and just made some pitches on the mound when we really needed them.”
With the 2-1 victory the Thunderbolts advance to district play to face Harrison at noon Saturday at Centerville.
The win over Tecumseh proved to be a real grinder with Northmont having to dig deep to secure the win.
“Yes it was. It certainly was a grinder,” Harlow said. “But it certainly wasn’t by design. We played Tipp on Monday and Anna on Tuesday. We planned to throw four pitchers against Tipp and four against Anna, and then it looked like it was going to rain Tuesday so we decided to throw one pitcher per inning Monday against Tipp and we ended up playing Anna on Tuesday and we ended up throwing one pitcher per inning again. This wasn’t by design to follow that same pattern but it sure worked out for us.”
Part of the reason Northmont had to employ five pitchers to earn the sectional final win was the oddly shaped mound at Bellefontaine.
“It’s a funny mound. It’s a beautiful ballpark but you are kind of pitching flat,” Harlow noted. “There is not a whole lot of downslope on the mound and all of our pitchers struggled with that, but they just kept dealing and we got some timely hits.”
After a long season that saw the Thunderbolts break out to a 6-1 start then fade to 10-10 before entering tournament play at 13-11, Harlow acknowledged it has been an uphill battle.
“It’s been a grind for all of us,” he added. “The kids never give up and as a high school coach you can’t ask for more than that. The kids are wonderful and just grind, grind, grind. It’s awesome that we got hot at the end of the year.”
Leading the Thunderbolts was Cronebach who went 2 for 3 with two doubles, two runs and a stolen base. Reaman went 1 for 2 with a walk and one RBI. Liddy went 1 for 3 with one RBI and Landon Hill went 1 for 3.
On the mound Jacob Monnin pitched 1 and 2/3 of an inning, gave up one run on two hits, struck out two and walked one. Tyler Defibaugh pitched 2 innings and gave up two hits with two strikeouts. Garrett Lee pitched 2/3 of an inning with two walks and one strikeout. Tanner Lee pitched two innings, gave up two hits, issued four walks and struck out two. Reaman worked the final 2/3 of the seventh with zeros across the board.
TEC 100 000 0 – 1 6 0
NMT 100 001 x – 2 5 0