Fairfield earns another gritty win against Oak Hills

Fairfield’s Nolan McWhorter makes contact with the ball during their 2-1 Division I sectional loss to Elder on May 12, 2016, at Joe Nuxhall Field. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

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Fairfield’s Nolan McWhorter makes contact with the ball during their 2-1 Division I sectional loss to Elder on May 12, 2016, at Joe Nuxhall Field. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

Tommy Begley has come to expect “gritty, tough” games when his Fairfield High School baseball team faces Oak Hills.

Wednesday was no exception. Begley’s Indians needed some clutch pitching from senior right-hander Kurt Lange and junior center fielder Noah Bauman’s strike from center field to wipe out the potential tying run to pull out a 1-0 Greater Miami Conference win over the Highlanders at Fairfield’s Joe Nuxhall Field.

“You have to earn your wins against them,” Begley said. ‘We played the same ballgame last year over at their place. It was 1-0 and we pulled it out.”

Two seniors, catcher Brock Mathis and left fielder Evan Trentman, produced doubles in the fourth inning to score the game’s only run against curveball artist Tyler Murphy, helping the Indians remain tied with Lakota West for first in the GMC. Those teams are scheduled to resume on Tuesday their April 5 game at Fairfield that was stopped by inclement weather with two outs in the top of the fifth inning and the Firebirds leading 3-0 with a runner on first.

Lange worked from behind for much of Wednesday’s game, but he had allowed just two hits and a walk — a base runner who was thrown out stealing in the fourth on a play where he was ruled safe before coming off the bag and being tagged out by senior second baseman Matt Seibert for the second out of the fourth — going into the sixth.

Lange, who pitched that 1-0 win at Oak Hills last season, opened the sixth by walking Oak Hills’ nine-hole batter. Leadoff hitter Drew Wetterich followed with a bunt between the mound and the third-base line that senior third baseman Andrew Sams fielded cleanly before slipping and landing on his posterior. Lange got a fly out before loading the bases by hitting junior Nick Deifel with a pitch.

“I was a little upset with myself because I had the guy down two strikes,” Lange said. “I just had to trust my fielders and trust my coaches.”

He came back to strike out cleanup hitter Austin Penwell, Mathis’ caught-stealing victim, with a slider and coax Brett Kron into grounding out to Sams.

“That one-out strikeout without putting the ball in play hurt,” Oak Hills coach Chuck Laumann said. “Their kid made the pitches.”

“Kurt has that bulldog mentality,” Begley said. “He never gives in.”

The Highlanders, who’ve lost three one-run games to Fairfield in the last two seasons, weren’t done. Junior Kyle Spille led off the seventh with a walk issued by senior relief pitcher Lucas Sheriff. Spille was sacrificed to second, and sophomore Ethan Myers followed with a single to center that Bauman fielded cleanly. He launched a one-hop throw to the first base side of the plate that Mathis grabbed and, with a lunge to his left, tagged out the sliding Spille.

The right-handed Sheriff shook off that scare to get a called third strike on senior Spencer Clingerman and clinch the win, the third straight for a Fairfield team that shared last season’s GMC championship with Mason.

“We all know that Noah has a hose for a little man,” Lange said with just a slight smirk on his face. “He has a cannon for an arm. When that runner rounded third, we all knew he was going to throw him out.”

Begley felt comfortable that Mathis was on the receiving end of Bauman’s throw.

“When you have a catcher like Mathis involved in the play, you feel pretty good,” Fairfield’s first-year head coach said.

“Their kid made the throw from center field,” Laumann said. “He threw a strike to the plate.”

On Thursday, the Indians will host Mason, while Oak Hills travels to West.

Oak Hills 000-000-0—0-4-1

Fairfield 000-100-x—1-4-0

WP — Kurt Lange (3-1); LP — Tyler Murphy (2-1); S — Lucas Sheriff (1). Records: O 4-5, 2-5 GMC; F 9-2, 6-1 GMC

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