Shamrocks roll through district finals with a win

Photo by Kim North Barnesville’s five seniors pose with the Ohio Division III Eastern District championship trophy after the Shamrocks defeated Sandy Valley, 10-6, Wednesday at Conotton Valley High School. From left are Jaxon Wiley, Reese Stephen, Duker Castello, Aydon VanHorn and Taison Starr.

LEESVILLE — The seniors on the Barnesville baseball team have had an unbelievable 2023-24 school year, both athletically and academically. That trend continued Wednesday night.

The top-seeded Shamrocks (22-6) claimed their second Ohio Division III Eastern District championship in four years with a 10-6 victory over No. 3 Sandy Valley on the synthetic surface at Conotton Valley High School in rural Carroll County.

“These seniors have come up big all season. They have stuck together for four years,” Barnesville head coach D.J. Butler said. “The last time we were here they were little freshmen running all around the field. They’ve been successful in football, basketball, wrestling and now baseball. This is like the icing on the cake for them.”

With the win, Barnesville advances to Region 11 semifinal action on May 30 at Ohio Dominican University Panther Field in suburban Columbus. Its opponent won’t be determined until Friday at 5 p.m. as No. 1 Wheelersburg meets No. 12 Wellston today at 4 at Paints Stadium in the Southeast 3 district semifinals in Chillicothe.

That winner gets the winner of No. 6 Minford and No. 18 Williamsport Westfall who play at 6 today, also in Chillicothe.

Senior Reese Stephen, a two-time Division III state championship wrestler, sparked the Shamrocks for the fourth consecutive game from the No. 3 hole in the order.

The second baseman clubbed a two-run double that drew Barnesville to within 3-2 of the Cardinals (20-6) in the bottom of the third.

“That got us going,” Butler said of the clutch hit by Stephen. “I knew he was going to get a hit there. He’s been our catalyst. That’s why he hits in the three hole, for situations just like that. We feel confident with Jaxon, Marshall and Ayden behind him.”

It was just the start for Stephen who added a pair of run-producing singles for his second four-RBI game in the Shamrocks last three outings.

“The baseball kind of seems like a beachball coming in. I’m seeing it really good,” Stephen explained. “I’m just going out and having fun.”

Facing a 4-2 deficit in the bottom of the fifth, Barnesville exploded for six runs on as many hits — with half of them being infield singles — to take a commanding 8-4 advantage it wouldn’t relinquish.

With one out, Max Miller legged out a bouncer up the middle that was fielded by the second baseman. Caleb Powell hit a high chopper to short for another infield single as Miller stopped at second. With two strikes, Stephen singled to right to make it 4-3 as Powell took third. Stephen stole second and followed Powell across the plate when Jaxon Wiley singled sharply to left. Marshall Meade reached when his grounder was mishandled at first. When the ball trickled away, pinch runner Jack Anderson sprinted for third. The throw sailed over the target as Anderson raced home and Meade advanced to second. With two outs, Casey Carpenter’s infield single plated pinch runner Kole Carpenter (no relation) as the margin grew to 7-4. Casey Carpenter went to second when the ball got away and pinch runner Caden Sellers scored when Taison Starr belted a double over the left fielder’s head.

“That was a huge hit by Jaxon at that point in the game,” Butler recalled. “That put us in a good spot.”

Sandy Valley mounted a serious threat in the sixth when Tyler Burk and Bo Besnower each singled leading off. Nick Petro reached on an error to load the bases and Chandler Humphrey walked to force in a run. Drew Graybill’s sacrifice fly to center got Besnower in, but Petro was called out for leaving second base early after tagging up. Luke Williams then walked but Barnesville reliever Dylan Blon got out of trouble with further damage.

The Shamrocks added a pair of insurance runs in the home half of the sixth. Miller doubled down the line in left leading off and scored when Powell’s sacrifice bunt was thrown wildly to first. After Powell went to second, Stephen recorded his third hit — an RBI single to left — to cap the scoring.

Barnesville totalled 11 hits as Stephen led the way with three. Miller (single, double), Powell (2 singles) and Starr (single, double) all had multi-hit outings.

Blon earned the win, striking out three and walking two in two-plus innings of work. The lefty registered two of his three Ks in the seventh, including the final out of the game. Meade fanned six and walked five in four-plus innings. They teamed on a seven-hitter.

“He was huge,” Butler said of the junior lefty. “He could’ve easily gotten frustrated there in the sixth, but he bulled his neck and got out of it.”


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