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Bellbrook gets big hits in Reds Showcase win


FAIRBORN — In a tight game during the late innings, clutch hitting gave Bellbrook the edge to prevail in its Cincinnati Reds High School Showcase game.

Luke Driskell and Brayden Hubbell hit consecutive triples in the fifth inning to extend the lead the Golden Eagles had just gained and helped them pull out a 5-2 win against Franklin on Wednesday at Wright State’s Nischwitz Stadium.

The win puts Bellbrook a half game ahead of Franklin for first place in the SWBL East standings.

“Our guys rose to the occasion,” head coach Jon Venters said. “I’ve been here 13 years now and I strongly feel this is the best the SWBL has ever been top to bottom. We want to prepare ourselves to come and compete in the league and I think it’s been successful.”

Wednesday’s Reds Showcase game is just the latest in a line of big stages Bellbrook has participated in at the season’s midway point. A trip to Florida to face other top Ohio teams, on top of the team’s conference schedule being top loaded with other contenders, had the Golden Eagles ready for its latest test.

Tied at two heading to the fifth and the Bellbrook dugout filled with positive chatter, Sam Barhorst got the rally started during a 10-pitch at-bat in which he fouled off five pitches before getting plunked. After he stole second, Bennett LaPalm drew a walk and Barhorst advanced to third on a wild pitch.

Luke Benetis then gave the Golden Eagles the lead on a groundout to short which Venters thought back as “nothing special” but one of the biggest plays of the game. It set the stage for Driskell and Hubbell’s heroics.

Driskell pulled a 1-1 pitch just inside of first base and found its way all the way to the corner, bringing brief thoughts of trying for an inside the park home run before getting the stop sign.

“I felt really well seeing the ball and it let me let the ball get deep to put it into right,” Driskell said. “It was a hanging slider and I just tried to go for it. I knew to try and go for it and wait back so I didn’t pop up on it like I did my second at-bat.”

Hubbell two pitches later smashed a liner that landed on the left field foul line halfway between the infield and the wall, ending with him sliding head first into third just under a tag.

“They’ve both been having good at bats, they just haven’t been finding holes unfortunately,” Venters said of the duo’s recent run of play. “Eventually you’re going to play to your baseball card, right? They’ve been doing the right things, been working hard and making adjustments.”

Both sides started their aces, LaPalm for Bellbrook and Jordan Hipsher of Franklin, but both sides produced balanced offensive and defensive efforts in the early innings to grind out runs.

Driskell had a RBI double in the first and Benetis singled home another in the third. The Wildcats singled home one in the first and tied the score in the fourth after LaPalm threw a wild pitch with two outs.

A 1-6-3 double play ended the top half of the sixth before Franklin made a final push in the seventh. The first three batters all walked, but Bellbrook threw out a runner trying to steal third in-between.

After loading the bases with two outs, Benetis induced a grounder to Blake Oberding at second who went the short route to secure the win.

LaPalm was named the game’s MVP after going six innings on the mound, allowing three hits and striking out three while also walking and scoring twice at the plate.

“This game sets the tone for the rest of the season,” Driskell said. “It helps us grow because we’ve been dropping a couple big ones lately and I just think this game is going to help us get back on track.”

Contact Steven Wright at 937-502-4498 and follow on Twitter @Steven_Wright_.