Roughly 72 hours after being down to their final strike and facing an end to their season, Covington Catholic ends up repeating in the 35th District.
And it was done on some more two-out, seventh inning magic.
The Colonels were facing a 3-2 deficit in the bottom of the seventh against Holy Cross on Saturday in the semifinals, the Indians a strike away from pulling off what would have been considered a mammoth upset. But a walk, error and two passed balls later, the Colonels pulled off the comeback for a 4-3 victory and advancing to Tuesday’s championship to take on Beechwood for the 10th straight season.
CovCath scored three more in the seventh on Tuesday night, knocking off Beechwood 7-4 at Meinken Field.
“I’ve never really had a team like this. I’ve always been fortunate to have a lot of seniors every year I’ve coached up until now. Only have four and they’ve done a good job leading and that’s for sure,” Colonels coach Bill Krumpelbeck said.
Jackson Reardon’s go-ahead RBI single in the seventh inning proved to be the difference maker for a Colonels team that had left 12 on the basepaths in the first six innings.
“We’ve been stressing in practice lay off that first pitch curveball, which we were getting in trouble earlier in the game. They did a little bit better laying off it and looking for your pitch. We’ve pretty much preached in practice,” Krumpelbeck said.
After Matthew Kappes got the first two outs of the frame via strikeout, Charlie Dieruf started the rally with a two-out double on a blooper to right, Reardon following with a single to left center to score him.
Max Lawrie and Owen Leen added run-scoring singles for insurance and a three-run lead headed to the final frame. Senior Jonathan Fitz came on in the bottom half for the save, striking out two and working around a walk and hit batter. Fitz is normally the team’s backbone of defense at catcher or leading hitter, he can now add closer as another title.
“I kind of knew before coming into the day that if we had a lead going into the seventh I was throwing that. I was ready for it, I knew it was coming, so just happy I got the opportunity,” Fitz said.
The game started off with a fury, the Colonels plating two runs on a Lawrie sac fly RBI and a Leen sac bunt RBI. Dieruf struggled on the bump in the first inning, allowing four Tiger hits for three runs.
Krumplebeck turned to Chris Young, who came on with the bases loaded and two outs, getting a strikeout to end the inning.
Young would go on to pitch the next four innings scoreless until Keagan Hutton’s pinch-hit double scored Mason Preston to tie the game up at four in the sixth. It was just Hutton’s third at-bat of the season, delivering the game-tying hit.
“He’s got pop. He’s hit some bombs in practice. We were debating on it, grabbed somebody and told him to get in there and pinch-hit. At first, I thought it was gone. Pressure situation for a sophomore, pretty cool,” Tigers coach Kevin Gray said.
Beechwood looked like they were up to some more late inning heroics as they have done throughout the season, but Young got out of the threat to get a groundout and flyout as the two teams headed to the seventh knotted at 4-4.
Matthew Kappes got two strikeouts to start the seventh, the Tigers looking for their first 1-2-3 inning of the game.
But Dieruf’s bloop found turf, advancing to second as a hard charging Cameron Boyd couldn’t come up with the ball initially. Reardon then settled back and waited for his pitch.
“Wasn’t really thinking much, just put the ball in play, just get a hit and do what I had to do,” Reardon said. “Early in the game I was just way ahead and was just thinking wait back and take it the other way and that normally does something for me.”
Young held a powerful Beechwood offense to just four hits over 5.1 innings and striking out six. His sidearm delivery left the Tigers hitters batters off track.
“We haven’t seen it. His ball moved so we kept trying to tell the guys to go the opposite way and we kept trying to pull it and we were hitting routine ground balls. He’s a pitcher, he’s not a thrower and knows how to pitch. Kept us off-balanced,” Tigers coach Kevin Gray said.
The Tigers now face what they hope will be a repeat of last year, winning the 9th Region tournament after a loss to Covington Catholic in the district title game.
“We wanted to win, wanted to be a No. 1 seed going in. You got to win three no matter you’re a 1-seed or a 2-seed. We can’t play like we did or pitch like we did today to have a chance in a three game in four-day setting,” Gray said.
Cameron Boyd led the Tigers with two hits, Shawn Sowder adding an RBI double, Tyler Fryman with a two-run single in the three-run first inning.
CovCath can point to the top of their lineup for their success, the first four batters collecting 11 of the Colonels 14 hits, Max Lawrie with four, Dieruf with three, Fitz with two and Reardon with two. Luke Pieper also added two hits and drew a bases loaded walk for an RBI in the third to tie the game up at three.
Lawrie added a run-scoring single in the fourth for a 4-3 Colonels lead.
The Colonels started the season 9-4 and then rattled off a 10-game winning streak, but lost five of their last seven going into the postseason.
“If they’re not confident it’s really difficult,” Krumplebeck said. “The region is up for grabs, everyone has had their good days and their bad days this year. There’s not one team that’s run through the whole thing.”
They now enter the region tournament as a No. 1 seed with the two teams finding out their opponent Thursday evening at the region draw. The 9th Region tournament starts Sunday at Thomas More Stadium.
COVINGTON CATHOLIC — 201-100-3 — 7-14-3
BEECHWOOD — 300-001-0 — 4-8-1
2B — (CC) Dieruf (2), (B) Sowder, Preston, Hutton
WP — Young. LP — Kappes.
Records: Covington Catholic 23-9, Beechwood 24-8