HAMILTON — The youth movement continues to produce success this season for Badin High School’s baseball team.
Second baseman A.J. Enginger is among three starting sophomores and leads the Rams in hitting, having elevated his batting average to .456 on Monday with a 3-for-4, two-RBI performance against visiting Ross.
A big crowd showed up at Alumni Field on a perfect night for Butler County rivalry baseball as Badin extended its winning streak to 13 with a 6-2 triumph.
“Sometimes you get caught in the moment, but you’ve got to stay locked in, and I think I was tonight,” Enginger said. “I always just breathe and try to stay calm. I think it pays off.”
Fellow sophomore Ryan Kirkendall drove in a run for Badin (20-2), which tallied three runs on two Ross balks and a wild third strike that got past catcher Keegan Nickoson.
Cade Boxrucker, Kenny Couch and Spencer Giesting combined on a four-hitter for the winners. Boxrucker struck out seven, walked three and hit Nickoson three times in 5.2 innings to get the win.
Badin coach Brion Treadway said Boxrucker, a junior right-hander and Campbell University commit, gutted his way to victory without his best stuff.
“Cade is a phenomenal pitcher, but at times he becomes a thrower, and he doesn’t need to do that anymore,” Treadway said. “He’s got the stuff to just pitch, and when he pitches, he’s really good. And when he throws, he’s all over the place.”
Ross (15-3) went with two of its best arms in Paul Schroeder and Trevor House, who threw a five-hitter. Schroeder pitched the first four innings and took the loss, and RHS coach Ben Toerner said he also didn’t have his best stuff.
Nickoson was on base four times and had a single. He admitted he wasn’t thrilled about getting plunked thrice by Boxrucker, but said he had no reason to think it was intentional.
“(Badin catcher Dylan) Ballauer told me none of those were on purpose,” Nickoson said. “I think I’m leading the team by like 10 pitches in hit by pitches this season, so I guess I’m just magnetic towards it. If they’re going to give me first base, I’ll take it and then go steal a base. That’s what I’ve been doing all season.”
Ross didn’t have a hit until Cooper Shields and Ryan Merkle delivered back-to-back singles with two outs in the top of the fifth inning. The visitors marked their two runs in the sixth on just one hit, an RBI single by House.
“Give Badin credit. They took advantage of some situations,” Toerner said. “Those are the games that we like playing. They came out and jumped on us early like they should, but we fought back. I liked our fight. I liked our focus. I saw a lot of good things out of us today. It just wasn’t our day to win.”
Nickoson thought the balk calls on Schroeder were “a little ticky-tack,” but conceded that Badin’s pitching was strong and not easy to cut loose on.
The Ross bats have cooled a bit over the last two weeks. The maroon-and-gold Rams have totaled 15 runs in their last six games.
“I’ve been slumping. We’ve all been slumping,” Nickoson said. “This game was a gritty one. I hope it can turn us around going into the playoffs.”
Toerner said he has no doubt that Ross has the ability to make some Division II postseason noise.
“I love the way we’re practicing. I love the commitment. I still feel really good about where we are,” Toerner said. “That was two good baseball teams out there tonight. We’re getting ready to make our run, and they are too.”
Ross is a No. 2 seed in D-II, while Badin is seeded fourth in D-I. Treadway felt Monday’s game had a tournament atmosphere, which was exactly what he was seeking.
“It was a great community event,” Treadway said. “I love these rivalry games. The fact that we could play it at our place under the lights and have beautiful weather with all these fans, what more can you ask as a high school baseball player?”
“This is Badin baseball. We’re going to come out and handle our business,” Enginger said. “Ross and Badin is always going to be a battle. This is always one of our biggest games if not the biggest.”
Enginger was a member of Badin’s freshman team last year and had no idea he’d be having such an impactful sophomore campaign.
“I just came in to do my job, but I didn’t think I’d be hitting .450,” Enginger said. “I love my brothers, and it’s so fun being with them every day. I just fit right in. Grade levels don’t matter.”
Treadway said he hasn’t been surprised by Enginger’s play this spring.
“He was at our camp in eighth grade, and I think he won almost every award that we offer,” the Badin coach said. “I think he epitomizes a Badin baseball player. He’s not looking to do anything special but square the ball up and help his team out. He’s a beautiful human being.”
Enginger was the only player in the game with multiple hits. The host Rams walked six times — four of those runners scored.
“What I was excited about was there were no easy innings for their pitchers,” Treadway said. “As a pitcher, pitches count more with runners in scoring position. It just puts more stress and fatigue on the pitchers, and I think we had a guy in scoring position in almost every inning.”
Both teams are scheduled to play Tuesday. Badin will travel to Fenwick, while Ross visits Talawanda to complete a suspended game that’s in the top of the first inning.
WP — Cade Boxrucker (6-0); LP — Paul Schroeder (4-1). Records: R 15-3, B 20-2
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