HAMILTON — Senior Night included a streak-extending triumph for Badin High School’s baseball team.
The Rams have shown a golden touch when it comes to securing wins in the last month — they haven’t lost since April 8 (to Chaminade Julienne) — and did it again Saturday in their annual rivalry clash with Hamilton.
Sophomores A.J. Enginger and Ryan Kirkendall drove in three runs apiece for Badin, which made a 7-2 deficit disappear in its last three at-bats and won 9-7 on a chilly, rainy evening under the lights at Alumni Field.
» PHOTOS: Rick Cassano’s gallery from Alumni Field
“This was one of the most fun games I’ve had this year,” said right fielder Luke Tabler, the lone senior in the Rams’ everyday lineup. “We expected Hamilton to come out and fight, and they did. But this team doesn’t give in very easily. Even at 7-2, I knew we weren’t done.”
Shawn Osborne, Cade Henry and Cade Boxrucker combined on a four-hitter for Badin (24-2) in its 17th consecutive victory.
Osborne went 3.2 innings, Henry retired all four batters he faced to pick up the win, and Boxrucker finished with five strikeouts in two innings to earn the save.
“I was very happy with how we battled back down 7-2,” Rams coach Brion Treadway said. “I was frustrated in the process of getting to 7-2, but I was very proud of the way the guys fought back.”
Osborne, Tabler, Henry, Ted Fischer, Ben Cogan, Kevin Hock, Ben Halpin, Matt Schneider, Blake Smith and Chase Hopewell were honored before the game in a Senior Night ceremony.
“Our lineup isn’t littered with senior players, but our seniors carry this team with their energy and teach the younger guys how we do things,” Treadway said. “These guys truly love each other. It’s been a lot of fun coaching them.”
Tabler, who will play football at Thomas More University, had one of Badin’s six hits and scored twice. The Rams stranded 11 runners.
“It’s my second rainy Senior Night because football was a wet one too,” Tabler said. “I’m not ready to be done playing baseball yet. It’s hard to believe this is one of my last games here. It seems like I was just here in the eighth grade doing baseball camps.
“I would say there was a different feeling for Senior Night. I could see the young guys looking up to us. They knew this night was for us and played like it. That meant a lot to us older guys. I’d say this is the most selfless team ever. No one matters more than one person on this team. It really shows that we have each other’s back.”
Badin and Hamilton could meet again in a Division I district semifinal May 21 at Lakota East. The Rams are seeded fourth in the Division I Cincinnati 5 sectional and will host either Oak Hills or Sycamore on Thursday, while 18th-seeded Big Blue will open at home Tuesday against Loveland.
HHS (11-13) is taking a three-game losing streak into the postseason, having lost to West Clermont (6-3) and Talawanda (3-2) prior to Saturday.
“We’re close to being able to compete every day and come away with a win. We’re just not winning enough,” Hamilton coach Joe Lewis said. “It’s a little play here, a little at-bat there that seems to be getting us. I know time’s running out, but hopefully we can turn that around and make some noise in the tournament.”
Jackson Lewis delivered a two-run single in the second inning and Payton Pennington launched a three-run triple in the fourth for Big Blue.
Pennington’s blast to right-center field was his second hit and marked the end of Osborne’s night on the hill. The senior second baseman would score on a wild pitch to give the visitors their 7-2 advantage.
“I’ve been in a slump for a little bit of the year, so it felt good to finally turn that one around,” said Pennington, who will continue his career at the University of Cincinnati. “I still believe in my team. I think a lot of people have seen what we can do over the last couple weeks. We hung right with Badin, and I think that speaks for itself. We hope to see them again.”
He enjoys the Hamilton-Badin rivalry. It doesn’t have a nasty edge to him.
“Maybe a little chit-chat every now and then, but that’s all,” said Pennington, who noted that he’s close to being 100 percent after suffering an ankle injury against Fairfield on May 1. “It’s a lot of fun competing against guys I’ve grown up with and played against. It’s a lot of energy, and I feed off that.”
Saturday’s contest featured a lot of unearned runs. Both teams scored four times on only one hit during their fourth-inning at-bats.
Enginger’s two-run double in the fifth proved to be the game-winning blow. The Rams, who got two hits apiece from Kirkendall and Dylan Ballauer, added an insurance run in the sixth when Josh Hegemann walked with the bases loaded.
Micaden Stephens threw the first 4.2 innings and Kurtis Reid finished for Big Blue. It was the first mound appearance of the season for Reid, a sophomore shortstop and Louisville commit.
“I felt like we competed and jumped out on them pretty good, so that’s a positive,” Joe Lewis said. “We didn’t do enough to win.”
Treadway’s only issue with Osborne was his performance against the bottom of Hamilton’s batting order. No. 8 Alex Baker singled and walked against the right-hander, and No. 9 Curtus Moak got hit by a pitch twice.
“Shawn’s been a great pitcher for us for three years, so we have a lot of confidence in him,” Treadway said. “Those runners were on base by freebies, and that just can’t happen. I feel like our errors compounded that fact.
“But this is a quality win. Hamilton has a good team, and they’re missing (Alex) Mills. Add him to the mix and the top of their lineup is as good as anybody in the state.”
Badin will host Vandalia Butler for a nonleague game Monday.
WP — Cade Henry (3-0); LP — Micaden Stephens (4-3); S — Cade Boxrucker (1). Records: H 11-13, B 24-2
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