Baseball: Ross hammers Clinton-Massie to win sectional crown

Ross pitcher Thomas House delivers a pitch to Eaton during their Division II sectional game at Ross on May 11. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY E.L. HUBBARD

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Ross pitcher Thomas House delivers a pitch to Eaton during their Division II sectional game at Ross on May 11. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY E.L. HUBBARD

Beating Clinton-Massie 8-1 during a season-opening doubleheader on March 25 was nice for Ross, but not nice enough.

The Rams still harbored some resentment over being knocked out of last season’s Division II sectional by the Falcons, so when Clinton-Massie chose to fill a berth in Ross’s tournament bracket again this season, the Rams were anxious for the rematch they got in Thursday’s sectional final.

They made the most of their opportunity. Senior right fielder Zach Arno crushed a first-pitch three-run homer over the 20-foot high left-field fence in the first inning and top-seeded Ross rolled past the sixth-seeded Falcons 9-0 at Hamilton’s Stang Field.

“I know we beat them at the beginning of the season, but (last year’s loss) was still in the back of our minds,” said Arno, whose homer was his fifth of the season and fourth of the week. He hit three in a 9-7 regular-season win at Taylor on Monday.

“When they jumped into our side of the bracket, the kids were excited,” Rams coach Jason Rettinger said. “They really wanted to play them.”

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The win sends the Rams into a district championship game for the first time since they last won a district title in 2001. They will face either New Richmond or Indian Hill on Saturday at 11 a.m. at Mason.

Ross beat Indian Hill 13-1 as part of that opening-day twinbill.

Senior right-hander Drew Huffman, who is 5-1 with a 1.19 earned run average, will be the starting pitcher for Ross (24-4), which finished the season ranked third in the state poll and has won four straight games and 11 of the last 12.

Huffman and senior second baseman Brennan Morton each logged two hits and drove in two runs for the Rams, who played flawless defense behind senior ace right-hander Thomas House (8-0). House allowed six hits and three walks, but he finished with eight strikeouts in a complete-game shutout.

“He didn’t have his best stuff,” Rettinger said.

“I feel like our defense is there every game, and that can help when a pitcher is struggling,” Arno said.

Arno hit a home run against Clinton-Massie in the season opener, but didn’t hit another until Monday. Filling the third slot in Rettinger’s batting order, he stepped to the plate with senior shortstop Tyler Flick on second after getting hit by a pitch and advancing on senior third baseman Zach Evans’ single to left. Arno expected a first-pitch fastball from Clinton-Massie right-hander Noah Greathouse and took full advantage when he got one.

“I’m feeling really good,” Arno said. “I started the season hitting pretty well, but then I went into a slump. The coaches just told me to relax. I figured I’d get a fastball, especially with runners on base.”

“He came in locked in,” Rettinger said.

Morton led off the second with a double, went to third on senior center fielder Joey Wright’s bunt single to third and scored on junior catcher Andrew Beebe’s ground out to first. Arno walked, Huffman singled and junior left fielder Brock Tatum walked to load the bases with nobody out in the fourth, setting up senior designated hitter Sam Stepaniak’s sacrifice fly and Morton’s run-scoring fielder’s-choice grounder, extending Ross’ lead to 6-0.

Huffman reached on an error, went to second on Tatum’s single and scored an unearned run on Morton’s two-out single to right in the fifth. Huffman wrapped up the scoring with a two-run single in the sixth.

New Richmond and Indian Hill were tied 7-7 after eight innings Thursday. They’re scheduled to finish the game Friday.

Clinton-Massie 000-000-0—0-6-2

Ross 312-012-x—9-8-0

WP — Thomas House (8-0); LP — Noah Greathouse (5-1); HR — R: Zach Arno. Records: C 20-9, R 24-4

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