Fairfield holds off Big Blue, finishes alone in second place in GMC

Hamilton’s Payton Pennington beats the pickoff attempt of Fairfield first baseman Trinidad Selvie during Sunday’s game at Joe Nuxhall Field in Fairfield. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY E.L. HUBBARD

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Hamilton’s Payton Pennington beats the pickoff attempt of Fairfield first baseman Trinidad Selvie during Sunday’s game at Joe Nuxhall Field in Fairfield. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY E.L. HUBBARD

The Greater Miami Conference championship eluded Fairfield High School’s baseball team this season, but the Indians still have titles on their minds.

Defending co-champion Fairfield finished alone in second place behind Lakota West in the conference standings after Sunday’s 4-3 triumph over Hamilton at Joe Nuxhall Field.

The Indians are 18-5 overall, 14-4 in the GMC, and eager to make their mark in the Division I postseason. They will have Senior Night against visiting Edgewood on Monday.

“I don’t want to use the word ‘disappointing’ because here we are at 18-5,” first-year Fairfield coach Tommy Begley said. “You’ve got to tip your cap to Lakota West. They’re a fine ballclub.

“A lot of teams would take where we’re at right now. Since we were eliminated from GMC contention, I think everyone’s focus has been 20 wins and let’s get to the tournament. Trying to get rid of last year’s taste in our mouths from losing in the second round and trying to get that 20th win, I’ll take that combination with this group of seniors.”

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Fairfield’s Matt Scowden delivers a pitch to a Hamilton batter Sunday at Joe Nuxhall Field in Fairfield. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY E.L. HUBBARD

Fairfield’s Matt Scowden delivers a pitch to a Hamilton batter Sunday at Joe Nuxhall Field in Fairfield. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY E.L. HUBBARD

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Fairfield’s Matt Scowden delivers a pitch to a Hamilton batter Sunday at Joe Nuxhall Field in Fairfield. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY E.L. HUBBARD

FHS had a first-round bye last year and then got bumped off 2-1 by Elder at Nuxhall Field. The Indians are seeded No. 2 in Cincinnati this season and will host either No. 18 Oak Hills or No. 28 Western Hills on Thursday.

“We had big expectations to be No. 1 in the GMC this year,” Fairfield senior catcher Brock Mathis said. “But baseball’s a crazy game. You take what you can get and you play as hard as you can every day.

“When it comes to the tournament, it’s go time for us. I would say we’re going to take that Elder loss as a chip on our shoulder. Our guys will be fighting.”

Added Begley, “Elder gets brought up all the time. You talk to someone about last year and they’re like, ‘Yeah, but you lost to Elder in the second round.’ So it is there. I think it’s going to bring motivation. I think it’s going to have everyone with the right focus when it comes to Thursday’s game.”

The Indians had to fight for a win Sunday, nearly squandering a 4-0 lead. The hosts scored twice in the first inning and twice in the third in support of starting pitcher Matt Scowden, who threw six solid frames.

“We’ve been struggling with our hitting, but I just told him to get all three pitches working, let our offense hit for us and we’ll win the ballgame,” Mathis said. “He was awesome. Painting corners, getting his changeup at the knees for a strike and the wipeout curveball. He’s been like that all season. He’s dominated with that.”

Begley said he pulled Scowden to keep his arm in good shape in case Fairfield needs him Thursday, when Kurt Lange is scheduled to start on the hill.

Payton Pennington was 3-for-4 and smacked a two-run homer in the fifth for HHS (11-15, 7-11). Big Blue added a Reid Ruhl sacrifice fly in the seventh and ended the game with runners on first and third.

Lucas Sheriff hit one batter and walked one in the seventh for the Indians. Tyler Morgan finished for his third save, while Mathis was 2-for-2 with two RBIs and Kaleb Ford contributed an RBI triple.

“If you’re the team that’s behind, all you can hope for is to have a legitimate chance to either tie or go ahead late in the ballgame, and we had that chance,” Hamilton coach Joey Lewis said. “We just couldn’t execute enough to get it done.”

Morgan gave up a perfect bunt single to Pennington, Ruhl’s sacrifice fly and a fielder’s choice by Jake Pennington before getting Zach Bell to finish the contest with a 1-3 ground out.

“Every time he takes the mound, he has that attitude that he’s going to beat you,” Mathis said of Morgan, a southpaw. “He tallies up his Ks in his bill, so he wants to strike you out.”

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Hamilton’s Payton Pennington is congratulated by coach Joey Lewis after hitting a two-run homer in the fifth inning of Sunday’s game against host Fairfield at Joe Nuxhall Field. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY E.L. HUBBARD

Hamilton’s Payton Pennington is congratulated by coach Joey Lewis after hitting a two-run homer in the fifth inning of Sunday’s game against host Fairfield at Joe Nuxhall Field. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY E.L. HUBBARD

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Hamilton’s Payton Pennington is congratulated by coach Joey Lewis after hitting a two-run homer in the fifth inning of Sunday’s game against host Fairfield at Joe Nuxhall Field. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY E.L. HUBBARD

Antonio Perez pitched a seven-hitter and Alex Mills had two infield singles for HHS, which begins sectional play at Anderson on Tuesday. Big Blue are seeded 17th, the Redskins 11th.

“We’re going to shake some heads, get people talking and hopefully make another run,” said Payton Pennington, a sophomore shortstop. “We’ve had a lot of energy these past couple games. I think it’ll carry over big time into the tournament.”

Perez, a senior who started Sunday with an 0-1 record and a 7.54 earned run average, didn’t allow a hit in his last three innings.

“Every time that we’ve asked him to go to the mound and pitch for us, he’s done well,” Lewis said. “He hits his spots. He throws some pitches that players don’t see a lot.”

Payton Pennington’s homer over the right-field wall was the first of his varsity career. He’s now tied for the team lead in long balls this season with his brother Jake and Bell.

“It was right down the middle,” Pennington said. “He threw it right in my wheelhouse, and I took as big a swing as I could. I wanted to beat my brother and hit it as far as I could.”

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Fairfield’s Brock Mathis scores on a passed ball as Hamilton pitcher Antonio Perez runs in to cover the plate during Sunday’s game at Joe Nuxhall Field in Fairfield. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY E.L. HUBBARD

Fairfield’s Brock Mathis scores on a passed ball as Hamilton pitcher Antonio Perez runs in to cover the plate during Sunday’s game at Joe Nuxhall Field in Fairfield. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY E.L. HUBBARD

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Fairfield’s Brock Mathis scores on a passed ball as Hamilton pitcher Antonio Perez runs in to cover the plate during Sunday’s game at Joe Nuxhall Field in Fairfield. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY E.L. HUBBARD

Lewis was pleased with his team’s intensity throughout Saturday’s win over Badin. He wasn’t as happy about Sunday’s effort.

“I would’ve liked to have seen us execute a little better in the short game,” Lewis said. “We had some sacrifice bunt situations where we weren’t able to get the ball down at all, and that’s a crucial part of the game if we’re going to succeed.

“I was disappointed in our energy a little bit when we started the game. When we played Badin, we had high energy from the first pitch to the last pitch. Today, I didn’t see that in the early part of the ballgame, so I was disappointed in that. But the fight we showed and the willingness to stay in the game and not give up, I was pleased and proud of that.”

He said Jake Pennington will get the mound start against Anderson.

“I think we’re ready,” Lewis said. “Even though we had a few hiccups in the field today, I think we’re playing better defensively. We’ve rearranged the order a little bit, and I think that’s helping us a little bit to relax at the plate and get some decent swings. Our pitching’s been good all year, so I’m confident that we’ll get a good performance on the mound against Anderson. It’s just a matter if we’re going to show up defensively and offensively.”

Begley is a 2001 Hamilton graduate and former Big Blue player. He roots for his alma mater whenever it’s not facing Fairfield.

The Indians defeated HHS 3-2 last Wednesday and swept the season series for the first time since 2011.

Fairfield will honor 11 seniors on Senior Night: Austin Schuh, Andrew Sams, Tyler Schram, Matt Seibert, Evan Trentman, Will Kramer, Sheriff, Scowden, Lange, Ford and Mathis.

Hamilton 000-020-1—3-7-2

Fairfield 202-000-x—4-7-0

WP — Matt Scowden (4-1); LP — Antonio Perez (0-2); S — Tyler Morgan (3); HR — H: Payton Pennington. Records: H 11-15, 7-11 GMC; F 18-5, 14-4 GMC

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Hamilton first baseman Alex Mills can’t get a grip on the ball during Sunday’s game against Fairfield at Joe Nuxhall Field in Fairfield. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY E.L. HUBBARD

Hamilton first baseman Alex Mills can’t get a grip on the ball during Sunday’s game against Fairfield at Joe Nuxhall Field in Fairfield. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY E.L. HUBBARD

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Hamilton first baseman Alex Mills can’t get a grip on the ball during Sunday’s game against Fairfield at Joe Nuxhall Field in Fairfield. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY E.L. HUBBARD

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Hamilton center fielder Reid Ruhl hauls in a Fairfield fly ball during Sunday’s game at Joe Nuxhall Field in Fairfield. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY E.L. HUBBARD

Hamilton center fielder Reid Ruhl hauls in a Fairfield fly ball during Sunday’s game at Joe Nuxhall Field in Fairfield. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY E.L. HUBBARD

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Hamilton center fielder Reid Ruhl hauls in a Fairfield fly ball during Sunday’s game at Joe Nuxhall Field in Fairfield. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY E.L. HUBBARD

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Fairfield third baseman Andrew Sams fields a Hamilton ground ball during Sunday’s game at Joe Nuxhall Field in Fairfield. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY E.L. HUBBARD

Fairfield third baseman Andrew Sams fields a Hamilton ground ball during Sunday’s game at Joe Nuxhall Field in Fairfield. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY E.L. HUBBARD

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Fairfield third baseman Andrew Sams fields a Hamilton ground ball during Sunday’s game at Joe Nuxhall Field in Fairfield. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY E.L. HUBBARD

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Hamilton pitcher Antonio Perez makes a delivery during Sunday’s game against Fairfield at Joe Nuxhall Field in Fairfield. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY E.L. HUBBARD

Hamilton pitcher Antonio Perez makes a delivery during Sunday’s game against Fairfield at Joe Nuxhall Field in Fairfield. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY E.L. HUBBARD

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Hamilton pitcher Antonio Perez makes a delivery during Sunday’s game against Fairfield at Joe Nuxhall Field in Fairfield. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY E.L. HUBBARD

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Fairfield second baseman Kaleb Ford fields a ground ball as Hamilton’s Payton Pennington runs to second base Sunday at Joe Nuxhall Field in Fairfield. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY E.L. HUBBARD

Fairfield second baseman Kaleb Ford fields a ground ball as Hamilton’s Payton Pennington runs to second base Sunday at Joe Nuxhall Field in Fairfield. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY E.L. HUBBARD

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Fairfield second baseman Kaleb Ford fields a ground ball as Hamilton’s Payton Pennington runs to second base Sunday at Joe Nuxhall Field in Fairfield. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY E.L. HUBBARD

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Fairfield shortstop Cameron Tenhundfeld fields a Hamilton ground ball during Sunday’s game at Joe Nuxhall Field in Fairfield. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY E.L. HUBBARD

Fairfield shortstop Cameron Tenhundfeld fields a Hamilton ground ball during Sunday’s game at Joe Nuxhall Field in Fairfield. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY E.L. HUBBARD

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Fairfield shortstop Cameron Tenhundfeld fields a Hamilton ground ball during Sunday’s game at Joe Nuxhall Field in Fairfield. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY E.L. HUBBARD

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Hamilton’s Alex Mills dives safely back to first base during Sunday’s game against Fairfield at Joe Nuxhall Field in Fairfield. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY E.L. HUBBARD

Hamilton’s Alex Mills dives safely back to first base during Sunday’s game against Fairfield at Joe Nuxhall Field in Fairfield. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY E.L. HUBBARD

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Hamilton’s Alex Mills dives safely back to first base during Sunday’s game against Fairfield at Joe Nuxhall Field in Fairfield. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY E.L. HUBBARD

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Fairfield’s Andrew Sams heads to home plate as Hamilton pitcher Antonio Perez backs up the cutoff man Sunday at Joe Nuxhall Field in Fairfield. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY E.L. HUBBARD

Fairfield’s Andrew Sams heads to home plate as Hamilton pitcher Antonio Perez backs up the cutoff man Sunday at Joe Nuxhall Field in Fairfield. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY E.L. HUBBARD

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Fairfield’s Andrew Sams heads to home plate as Hamilton pitcher Antonio Perez backs up the cutoff man Sunday at Joe Nuxhall Field in Fairfield. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY E.L. HUBBARD

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