Shadyside fends off Shenandoah to advance in OVAC 2A

Francis throws Tigers' fourth no hitter of the season

Photo/KRISTIN MAZGAJ SHADYSIDE JUNIOR pitcher Rhys Francis delivers to the plate during Saturday's OVAC Class 2A semifinal against Shenandoah. Francis threw the Tigers' fourth no hitter of the season in a 1-0 victory.

That’s baseball!

Both coaches summed up Saturday’s OVAC Class 2A semifinal between Shadyside and Shenandoah in that manner, but when the dust settled it was a jaw-dropping ending that resulted in the host Tigers scoring a 1-0 victory over the Zeps.

Pitchers Rhys Francis of Shadyside and Dayton Hill of Shenandoah locked horns in a dandy, with the game scoreless heading to the bottom of the seventh inning.

Shadyside’s Alex Baker led off with a single and pinch-runner Tyler Stottlemyer was advanced to second via a sacrifice bunt by Ben Wach.

After a strikeout, the game appeared headed for extra innings when Hill got Jordan Joseph to hit a high pop-up in the infield, but the ball dropped painfully between a trio of Zeps and Stottlemyer sprinted from second home with the game-winning run.

“That’s baseball,” said Shadyside coach Shawn Selmon, whose team improved to 15-4. “It’s obviously not the way you want to win a baseball game, but a win’s a win.

“Baseball guys love this kind of game,” added the Tigers’ fourth-year boss. “It’s a strategic game…a pitchers’ duel…and we were fortunate to come out on top.”

“That’s baseball,” echoed Shenandoah’s first-year coach Tyler Engle. “Just when you think you’ve seen it all…

“It was a very unfortunate loss, for sure,” the Zeps’ coach continued. “I told our guys we just played the number one or number two team in our district and we’ve proven to ourselves that we can go toe-to-toe with them.”

Not to be lost in the dramatic ending was the fact that Shadyside’s Francis was masterful, with the junior spinning a no-hitter and posting 11 strikeouts. Only two Shenandoah players reached base – one on a hit batsman and the other on a walk.

The “tough loss” label goes to Hill, who escaped a couple of jams while finishing with five hits allowed, three Ks and two walks.

“Both pitchers did an outstanding job today,” said Shadyside’s Selmon. “Rhys kept them off-balance all game. That’s our fourth no-hitter as a staff, and we had guys ready if we needed them if it went another seven innings.”

Shadyside let two scoring opportunities slip away, including the second inning where singles by Ryan Florence and Korey Beckett and a walk to Baker loaded the bases with one out, but Hill posted a strikeout and an infield grounder to shut the door.

In the fifth, the Tigers had two runners on via a walk to Eric Allen and a single by Joseph, but again Hill came through with a “K” to end the threat.

Shenandoah’s only scoring chance came in the fourth when Cade Denius was hit by a pitch; stole second and moved to third on a sac bunt by Robbie Cool, but Francis got the next batter to foul out to catcher Florence to keep the Zeps scoreless.

“We’ve got to make our own breaks so we don’t put that much pressure on our pitcher and our defense,” said Shenandoah’s Engle, whose team dropped to 13-7. “Hats off to their pitcher – he threw a heck of a game – but Dayton did, too.”

Shadyside will now take on top-seeded Toronto, a 9-3 winner over River in the other semifinal, for the OVAC Class 2A championship. The Tigers will be shooting for their third conference baseball crown, having won in 1994 and 2007.

“I told our guys all year long if we hit the ball well, we’re a very difficult team to beat,” said Coach Selmon, “so we’ll be ready to go and see where the cards fall.”


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