MASON — If you were watching the Bellbrook game on television, you probably would have turned it off after the first couple of innings, feeling certain that they’d won.
The Golden Eagles, a team that is very comfortable winning defensive ballgames, had a 6-2 lead through four innings. But Tipp City Tippecanoe was able to hang in the game and take advantage of some costly Bellbrook mistakes late to grab the Division II district championship, 7-6, Saturday at Mason High School.
“Our game plan was to score early, we did, and we added on in the first couple of innings. We got it to six, and unfortunately we gave them some runs and it kind of snowballed from there,” said Bellbrook Coach Rich Demko. “If we play catch, if we make the plays we’re supposed to, it’s a totally different outcome. They took advantage of our mistakes and I give them credit for fighting back.”
Bellbrook (22-8) put one on the board in the first inning when senior Austin Hall drove in the leadoff batter, Chase Buttery. They then scored two more in the second and third, with runs coming from Riley Brown, Joe Mezzanotte, Alex Fryman and Cody Clark. Casey Demko scored again in the top of the fourth, giving Bellbrook a 6-1 advantage.
Brown also had a good day from the mound. With a solid defense behind him, the Golden Eagles held Tippecanoe scoreless and hitless in the first two innings, and only gave up three hits and three runs for the next three innings.
But the momentum started to shift as the game progressed. Bellbrook’s run production stalled after the fourth inning, and they were able to get on base only once in rest of the game. Part of that was Tippecanoe’s relief pitcher, freshman Aaron Hughes, who came in after two innings.
Things got bad for Bellbrook in the bottom of the sixth. The Golden Eagles were up 6-3, but Tippecanoe (23-7) was able to go through its entire lineup, taking advantage of Bellbrook’s errors to score four runs and put them up for good. Josh Rogers game in to try and close the inning with one out, but he wasn’t able to get much past the Red Devils, even if they were ugly hits.
Evan Gilliam and Bradley Calhoun both hit singles to get on base, and both scored when an errant throw to first sailed over Bellbrook first baseman, Nathan Coffey. Zach Blair then batted in two more for Tippecanoe.
In the top of the seventh, the Red Devils brought in their ace, Ben Hughes. The senior, who has 70 strikeouts and a 0.81 earned run average, lived up to his reputation. Despite hitting Hall with a pitch to put him on base, Hughes got all three out swinging.
Despite how it ended, Demko was happy with the season Bellbrook had.
“It was an outstanding season. We had a school record for wins. We played all Division I and Division II schools, I’m proud of these kids. We only missed going as far as our school (had ever gone in the postseason) by one game,” he said.
Bellbrook’s graduating seniors include Seth Hoholick, Stevie West, Coffey, Hall and Brown.
“We’re going to miss them. They threw most of our innings this year. Great leadership. We didn’t have officially any captains. They knew who they were, and it was the seniors,” said Demko.