Blue Devils come up short in regional semifinal


FAIRBORN — Brookville’s defense was rock solid but its bats could only generate four hits in a 4-2 loss Thursday to Cincinnati Christian at Wright State.

The Cougars employed some hocus pocus to generate their first run in the top of the first. Nick Birch hit a one out single to left. T.J. Selvie grounded out to first with Birch advancing to second.

Kael Starks reached on an infield single with Birch reaching third. Starks took a big lead off first drawing a pick off attempt by Brookville pitcher Lane Willoughby. Starks got caught up in a rundown and Birch stole home until Starks got tagged out.

The Blue Devils tied the game in the bottom of the first. Jace Wood hit a line drive leadoff single to right and advanced to second on a 4-3 ground out for the second out. Braden Chambers followed with a line drive single to right to score Wood.

Cincinnati Christian took a 2-1 lead in the top of the third. With one out Birch reached on an infield single and stole second. Selvie drew a walk and Starks grounded into a fielder’s choice to short with Wood throwing to second baseman Nathan Waggoner to eliminate Selvie. Birch reached third on the play.

Alex Minacapelli hit a line drive single to center to drive in Birch to give the Cougars a one run lead.

The Cougars threatened again in the top of the fifth.

Birch and Selvie hit back-to-back one out singles. Willoughby struck out Starks swinging for the second out.

Birch tried to steal third but Brookville catcher Kayde Baker fired a perfect throw to third basemen Hunter Gray who applied the tag to a head-first sliding Birch for the third out.

Baker came up big again in the top of the sixth. With one out Luke Fischer got hit by a pitch and Tylon Colegrove came in to pinch run. Colegrove broke for second on the first pitch to Bradyn Bayes.

Baker gunned down Colegrove with another perfect throw, this time to Waggoner at second. Willoughby struck Bayes out swinging for the third out.

The Blue Devils went down in order in the bottom of the sixth. Cincinnati Christian boosted its lead with two more runs in the top of the seventh, but the inning started with another great defensive play.

Third baseman Hunter Gray made a diving stop on a hard ground ball by Nagel. Gray rose up on one knee and threw to first for the out. Jonah Wilson followed with a fly out to left.

With two outs Timmy Nagel singled to left and advanced to second on a wild pitch. Birch drew a walk to put runners at first and second. Selvie singled to short with Nagel scoring and Birch reaching third.

The Cougars pulled another one over on the Blue Devils when Selvie broke for second to set up another run down. Birch headed home and Wood fired to the plate but Birch beat the throw to give the Cougars a 4-1 lead.

Selvie reached second on the throw to the plate but Willoughby struck out Starks to end the threat.

Braden Chambers hit a line drive leadoff single to left in the bottom of the seventh. Baker drew a walk to give the Blue Devils runners at first and second.

Waggoner hit a fly out to right and Landon Trent a fly out to center. Gray hit a line drive single to left to score Chambers with Baker reaching third to make it 4-2.

Cincinnati Christian pitcher Jackson Raby ended the game by getting Cole Crabtree to hit a pop up to second as the Cougars walked away with a two run victory.

Raby held Brookville to four hits in seven innings with five strike outs and one walk. Willoughby went seven innings for the Devils allowing nine hits and four runs with three strike outs and three walks.

Chambers led Brookville with two hits in three at bats.

Cincinnati Christian improved to 24-5 but the Cougars lost in the regional final 4-0 to Heath the following day.

Brookville concluded its season 20-10 overall and won its first district crown since 2004.

“Hats off to Cincinnati Christian. They are a good baseball team and their M.O. is to make you beat yourself and they did that just enough today to put is in a little bit too much of a hole to climb back out of,” said Brookville coach Tyler Eaton.

“Willoughby was outstanding pitching as always. It wasn’t the strike out numbers that he always has, but he pitched his butt off for our guys,” Eaton said. “We played decent enough defense to give us a chance to have the tying run at the plate late.”

He took note of Kayde Baker throwing out two base runners to nip a pair of scoring threats.

“Those two throws… for a guy that hasn’t thrown out a lot of dudes this year… because of how good his arms is he hasn’t had a lot of teams try to run on him, he stayed ready today and he hosed those to kids. It was great to see. It was awesome to see because he hasn’t had a lot of chances to do that and he came through with two money balls right on the bag, so it was great,” Eaton noted.

When asked what it meant to have his team get this far into the tournament, Eaton became emotional.

“It means everything. Honestly, it was our seniors,” Eaton said as he fought back tears. “They were here when I got here three years ago as sophomores. I jumped on a couple of grenades because I was playing a whole lot of sophomores my first year and it rubbed some people the wrong way, but I believed in that group. I knew that if there was going to be a group that we were ever going to be able to get to a spot like this, it was going to be them.

“We haven’t done this since 2004, so if there was going to be a group to do that it was going to be that one right there,” Eaton noted. “They bought into it and they worked their tales off every single day, off-season, winter time, workouts at 8 a.m. in February to get some gym time in, it was that group that never complained about any of that and they earned everything they got this year.

“Getting this far and being a team that, when they look back in three years or five years and they are asked, ‘What was the best part about your high school baseball?’ It is always going to be this run,” Eaton said. “They earned this run and hopefully those younger guys will see the way they came into it, the work they put in every single day and will look to carry that torch.

“Our goal is not to turn this back into a six win Brookville team next year like we’ve had in past years once the good group leaves,” Eaton added. “Our goal is to keep the standard and keep how we go about the day to day and maybe not be regional semifinal good every year, but to bring up the lows a little bit and keep the highs going even higher.

“These guys, their entire three years I have had them, sophomore, junior, senior year, its been up and to the right the whole time and that’s all you can ask for is just constant building to get to this point. I just couldn’t be more proud of these guys,” Eaton concluded.

Reach Ron Nunnari at (937) 684-9124 or email [email protected].

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