BELLBROOK — A ground ball hopping off the mound went right to second base and ended an eight-year drought for Bellbrook baseball.
The Golden Eagles clinched its first league title since 2014 with a 7-2 win against Waynesville on Wednesday at home.
“I’m really excited for the guys,” head coach Jon Venters said. “We had the guys all winter work hard. This was their goal. And it’s always good when you see that come to fruition. All their hard work, our leadership I thought from our captains this year, the focus we had on the small details because I think that’s what wins championships.”
Pitching and defense have led Bellbrook this season. The staff ranks second in the SWBL in ERA, WHIP and strikeouts. That strength certainly was on display again against Waynesville.
Bennett LaPalm gave up an early run on the mound, but settled in to buy the Bellbrook offense all the time it needed to warm up on a cool and windy evening. And LaPalm was a big part of that too.
Striking out 12 hitters in his five innings, he also went 3 for 3 at the plate with a walk from the leadoff spot.
“He found himself there in the middle innings of that game getting ahead, throwing strikes, really being dominant with two pitches, both his fastball and his breaking ball,” Venters said of LaPalm’s pitching.
Right behind him in the order, Caleb Fugate was able to produce three RBI to single handily get his team enough runs to win.
Brayden Hubbell replaced LaPalm and tossed a shutdown sixth inning. He allowed the bases to become loaded in the seventh, but recorded the final two outs to secure the league title.
The title run this season culminated a string of steady improvement in the last eight years for the program. After the 2014 championship, Bellbrook fell to the bottom of the league two years later but has moved up the standings each season until it secured its place at the top once more.
“It’s a direct reflection of the hard work they put in and the hard work that our coaches put in,” Venters said. “Our coaches do a phenomenal job. We practice together as a program almost all the time. So all the coaches have their hands in the development of all the kids and I think we have some tremendous assistant coaches that have truly molded and done a lot of good things for us and I’m very thankful for that.”
The state tournament draw is next for Bellbrook, but a matchup of division leaders with unbeaten Eaton looms first on Thursday.
“If I’m being honest, I think our focus is tomorrow,” Venters said. “We got a really good team in the division on the other side that I know we have several guys that play with some of their guys in the summer. We want to go out and we want to compete and play hard in that game and they’re a good team.
“After that then yeah, we’ll look to the look to the tournament and then use next week to really try to line ourselves up to the tournament.”