When Ryle and Covington Catholic won their respective district tournaments, they set themselves up for good positioning in the 9th Region baseball tournament set to start on Sunday at Thomas More Stadium in Florence.
The thing is, the runners-up in those respective districts ended up drawing the two teams that lost in the same districts as Ryle will meet three-time reigning champ Beechwood and CovCath will meet Conner, one of the favorites coming into the tournament.
The word favorite could be used loosely here, no real dominant team in the region this year with five contenders: the four mentioned along with Highlands and definitely not to be overlooked Dixie Heights, St. Henry and Newport Central Catholic, all capable of pulling off an upset or two over the course of the next few days.
Tourney play starts at 10 a.m. on Sunday with a nice breakfast buffet between the 33rd District champ Ryle and the 35th District runner-up Beechwood.
Dixie Heights, champions of the 34rd District, then take on Newport Central Catholic, 36th District runners-up at 1 p.m.
The 36th District champ Highlands will face the 34th District runner-up St. Henry at 4 p.m.
The nightcap features the 35th District champ Covington Catholic taking on the 33rd District runner-up Conner.
Semifinals will be played on Monday at 5:30 and 8 p.m., with the championship on Wednesday at 7 p.m.
Ryle (25-10) vs Beechwood (24-8), Sunday, 10 a.m.
What a treat to start off the tournament. The highest rated RPI teams will go head-to-head in the first round as the two have been either at the top or right at it in the region throughout the season.
They split in the regular season, Beechwood winning the first meeting 14-6 on April 13, Ryle getting revenge with a 14-7 victory on May 2.
The Raiders went undefeated in district play that doesn’t have an easy out in it and have three aces on the pitching staff that will keep them in any game. Caleb Mann (2.01 ERA), Dylan McIntyre (2.04 ERA) and TJ Schira (2.59 ERA) have started 21 of the Raiders 35 games and if they’re to make a run to Wednesday’s championship game are the ones to start off and get them there. The team sports an impressive 3.36 ERA and have plenty of pop at the plate to scratch enough runs across the board. Roman Furuta has been the most productive bat in the lineup with a .388 batting average, six homeruns and 36 RBI. TJ Schira hit two homeruns and drove in five in the Raiders district championship win over Conner, Tate Cordrey and Landon Sawyer all hitting well over .300 on the season.
The Tigers are the highest scoring team in the region and punish the opponent with the bat, averaging 9.3 runs per game. Cameron Boyd leads the attack with a .545 batting average, blasting 11 homeruns and 49 RBI. Nazario Pangallo (.374 batting average) and Michael Detzel (.342) are the table setters for Boyd at the top of the lineup. Tyler Fryman has really come on for Beechwood, while Shawn Sowder and Ben Meier are not to be overlooked either. Pitching at times has been shaky for the Tigers without ace Mitchell Berger, who was lost for the season when he suffered an injury in football. Matthew Kappes and Chase Flaherty are the top two in the rotation, Torin O’Shea the main reliever while Sam Stacy and Landon Johnson have provided productive innings on the bump.
The winner of this one will play the Dixie Heights-Newport Central Catholic winner in Monday’s semifinals at 5:30 p.m.
Newport Central Catholic (12-17) vs Dixie Heights (14-21), Sunday, 1 p.m.
The two did not face one another during the regular season, but both enter playing well down the stretch despite their records. The Colonels have won six of their last nine while the Thoroughbreds have won four of their last seven.
Dixie Heights didn’t allow a run in their two district tournament games, blanking Lloyd Memorial 7-0 and following it up with a 3-0 shutout victory over St. Henry. They haven’t allowed a run in their last three games, a welcome sign for a team that was allowing 6.8 runs per game before that. They’ve struggled at the plate at times, held to three runs or less in 14 games, but Ethan Bosley has provided consistency all season with a .465 batting average and striking out just three times in 114 official at-bats. Luke Abeling, Sean Mitchell and Brach Rice are all hitting over .300. They’ve spread out the starts pitching this season, five different guys starting at least five games. In the three-game shutout streak, Cole Pullum, Brach Rice and Brayden Runion all pitched complete game shutouts.
NewCath is the lone team without a win against the tournament field and enter the tournament shorthanded without Connor Seiter, who hasn’t played since April 19 due to injury. Noah Ohradzansky got the ball in the district championship, the team’s innings pitched leader and kept the Thoroughbreds in it with Highlands, pitching six innings of six-hit ball with three runs allowed. Ian Mann has been impressive in relief and two starts, sporting a 0.64 ERA in 22 innings pitched. Mann also leads the team in hitting with a .474 batting average, Ohradzansky not too far behind, batting .411.
Highlands (19-14) vs St. Henry (13-19), Sunday, 4 p.m.
The two did not face each other during the regular season as both enter with a rough patch down the stretch, Highlands 3-5 in their last eight, St. Henry 2-6 in their last eight.
The Bluebirds are the last team besides Beechwood to win the region title, doing so four times in a row from 2015-18. They’ve certainly got the talent to get the title back to Fort Thomas. Every hitter in the lineup is hitting over .300 led by Jack Hendrix’s .480 batting average and also leads the team with a 1.44 ERA.
The Crusaders can turn to Luke Kiepert (1.91 ERA) and Carson Shea (2.33 ERA) on the bump, the two combined to post a 8-2 record during the regular season. Matthew Resing leads the team with a .430 batting average with five others hitting at least .300, including Kiepert (.355) and Shea (.333).
Covington Catholic (23-9) vs Conner (25-12), Sunday, 7 p.m.
You want dessert? Well, you’re getting it anyways.
The nightcap is going to be a good ‘ole good one with two teams that have a combined 48 victories this season. The Colonels got the best of the Cougars twice during the regular season, 8-4 on April 1 and 4-1 on April 24. Chris Young shut the Cougar bats down in the first contest, pitching six innings and allowing one earned run while Young and Bradley Zekl combined to allow four hits and one run in the second contest.
The Colonels rattled off a 10-game winning streak from April 17-29, but have gone 4-5 since and were a strike away from being eliminated by Holy Cross in the district semifinals. Doesn’t matter now as they found a way to rally and win that one while pulling off another seventh inning rally against Beechwood, scoring three runs in the seventh inning for a 7-4 victory.
The name of the game in this one will be pitching. Both teams sport the best runs allowed average, Conner allowing 3.05 runs per game while CovCath allows an even four runs per game. The Cougars have a plethora of arms to deploy led by Brady Mangold with a 1.68 ERA and 61 strikeouts in 41.2 innings pitched. Nine pitchers on the Conner roster that have logged at least 10 innings pitched have an ERA of 2.63 or lower, four of them with a sub-two ERA.
Whoever can line up the timely hits will come out ahead, the Colonels able to do so in the first two games, Charlie Dieruf with three hits and an RBI in the first game, Jackson Reardon with two hits and an RBI, Reardon and Ben McEvoy collected two RBI apiece in the second meeting.
Covington Catholic’s top of the lineup does a lot of damage, the top four hitters hitting at least .391, with Marcus Suwinski sidelined the last seven games due to injury, taking a big bat out of the lineup.
Conner has really put the bats together down the final stretch of the season, scoring 93 runs over their final 12 games of the season, quite the uptick from when they were averaging 5.7 runs per game in the first 25 games of the season.
Looking at the field:
Each team’s and record against the tournament field:
Covington Catholic 11-2
St. Henry 2-9
Dixie Heights 2-12
Newport Central Catholic 0-7
Ryle is 11-3 in their last 14
Beechwood is 6-2 in their last eight
Conner is 9-3 in their last 12
Dixie Heights is 6-3 in their last nine
NewCath is 4-3 in their last seven
CovCath is 3-4 in their last seven
Highlands is 3-5 in their last eight
St. Henry is 2-6 in their last eight
Covington Catholic .58876
St. Henry .48802
Dixie Heights .47838
Newport Central Catholic .47236