LEBANON —It took two days to complete, but Tri-County North’s baseball team is moving on to the regionals.
On Monday, May 23, the Panthers won the Division IV District championship by beating Miami Valley Christian Academy 9-2 at Lebanon High School. The win is the first district title since 2013 and is the third title since 1982.
With the championship, North coach Justin Tucker will lead his team to the Region 16 tournament, which was scheduled to be played, Thursday, May 26, against North Lewisburg Triad at Carlton Davidson Stadium in Springfield.
“Today, we did what we had to do,” Tucker said. “We didn’t hit it very well, but that happens some days compared to what we did on Friday and we had a big enough lead to where it didn’t really matter.”
The game itself began on Friday in Lebanon amidst a dreary rainfall, which turned the field into a muddy quagmire. At the start, neither team could mount an offensive until the second inning. The Panthers were able to amass nine runs off five batters hit by pitch, five hits and three walks against Lions pitcher Jamie Carson.
Miami Valley responded in the bottom of the second by scoring two runs off four hits and a walk. Before the third inning began, the rain really began to come down, turning the pitching mount into shambles. The officials of the event chose to delay the game until Monday, starting at the top of the third inning.
The rest of the game was hotly contested under sunny skies and dry conditions. Miami Valley pitcher Carson struck out two of the three batters in the third in dominating form.
Panthers’ pitcher Chandler Sproles was able to force a three and out against the Lions. He gave up a solid base hit from Carson, only to see Carson caught stealing at second base, thrown out by freshman catcher Liam Downing. The fourth inning saw a pair of quick outs against the Panthers until Bo Hendrickson reached first base for a single but was left on when Bailey Lairson flied out to center. The Lions threatened to score in the fourth from a walk and a base hit which put runners in scoring position, but North held firm by getting the outs in time.
From there, Miami Valley couldn’t mount an offensive against North’s defense as they suffered five strikeouts in the final three innings. Sproles was spectacular in the bottom of the fifth inning, when he struck out two batters and got a ground out on seven consecutive strike pitches. Only in the seventh inning did a Miami Valley batter reach base on a fielding error, but first base was a far as he would go, as the Panthers closed out the game with a fly out and a strikeout against the final Lions batter.
“I thought on Friday, we came ready to play and the rain really didn’t bother us,” Tucker said. “That’s what being mentally tough is all about. It’s easy to play when it’s 80 and sunny but when you got to do something like that, it means a lot when they showed they can do that.”
Zach Edgin, Logan Elmore, Tanner Booth, Liam Downing, Bo Hendrickson, and Jordan Overcash each had a hit in the game, with Overcash’s hit going for a double. Chandler Sproles earned the win and the complete game, striking out six and walking only two.
Tucker gave his thoughts on the upcoming regional tournament: “One game at at time. We will play on Thursday, and we’ll see what we’ll do from there. I think we have a shot but at the same time, we have to play well.”
If the Panthers won on Thursday, they will play in the regional final on Friday at 5 p.m. with a trip to the state semifinals on the line. (Thursday’s results were too late for press time.)
Reach Oliver Sanders at 937-683-4062 or on Twitter @osanders_RH