Ross High School’s baseball team remains in the driver’s seat for the Southwest Ohio Conference championship.
It’s just become a bit more cramped.
The Rams had a chance to clinch at least a tie for the title Tuesday at Harrison, but came away with a 6-2 defeat that tightened the race between Ross, Talawanda and HHS.
“We get on the bus the same way we got off the bus … in first place,” Ross coach Jason Rettinger said after watching his squad fall to 17-3 overall and 8-2 in the SWOC. “We’ve played so well this year that we can afford a loss every now and then. Our margin of error is going down, but you win tomorrow, you win the league.”
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Here’s the situation in the conference:
• Ross hosts Talawanda for Senior Night on Wednesday and Harrison on Thursday. The Rams need one more win to clinch a share of the championship and two more wins (or a win over THS plus a Harrison loss to Northwest) to win the title outright.
• Talawanda is 8-3 in the SWOC and can secure a piece of the crown by beating Ross on Wednesday. The Braves can be outright champions if Ross loses its last two games and Harrison loses to Northwest.
• Harrison is 7-3 in the SWOC and travels to Northwest on Wednesday before heading to Ross on Thursday. The Wildcats must win out to get a share of the title.
“I can’t wait for Senior Night tomorrow,” Rettinger said. “Our kids have responded really well after every time we maybe haven’t played our best. They’re tough. They’re gritty. Even at the end of games we’re losing, we’re still swinging and attacking. That’s good.”
The Rams lost with their ace on the mound Tuesday as lefty Trevor House lasted four innings in an outing that seemed much longer.
House only gave up two hits, but he had seven strikeouts, seven walks and hit two batters.
Harrison (15-6) scored twice in the third inning without putting a ball in play. House fanned the first two Wildcats, then walked Brett Reinstatler, hit Sean Lawhorn with a pitch and walked (in order) Max Meisel, Connor Kinnett and Joey Lawhorn to bring in two runs and make it 2-1. Logan Weber grounded out to end the inning.
HHS added a two-run single by Meisel in the fourth and RBI singles by Coby Campbell and Cooper McElroy off Zach King in the fifth. Campbell was 2-for-3 with a double and scored twice.
“House is tough. He had a live, live arm,” Wildcats coach Shawn Sowders said. “He helped us, but then we got a couple real big hits. We didn’t hit the ball very well overall, but that’s been us all year. We’ve won when we’ve won because of pitching and good defense. That’s just been the way it is, and once in a while we scratch a couple runs in.”
King and Nick Arno threw an inning apiece to complete a four-hitter for the Ross hurlers. Rettinger said it was the right decision to lift House, who also walked two batters in the second inning.
“Just too many pitches. He had an inning in the upper 30s,” the RHS coach said. “Usually the first inning is when he’s a little overamped, and he pumped nothing but strikes in the first inning today. In our three losses, we have struggled to throw the ball over the plate. Again, that’s part of having those young arms.”
Senior left fielder Brock Tatum had a triple, a double and an RBI for the Rams. He said House may have been the guy in the spotlight, but it was a team loss.
“I totally believe in our pitching staff,” Tatum said. “Trevor always does well. He just struggled one inning. It happens, and that’s baseball. We’ve got to pick him up after that rough inning. That’s on us.”
Ross swung the bats reasonably well, collecting six hits off Wildcats right-hander Joey Lawhorn. House was 2-for-2 with a triple, and Andrew Beebe drove in a run.
Lawhorn struck out seven, walked three and gave up one earned run. Sowders said the 109-pitch performance was easily his longest of the season.
“He had a good curveball going today, he had a good changeup going, and he had a fastball that was running pretty hard too,” Sowders said. “When he got ahead in the count, we started running some fastballs and started jamming people.”
Lawhorn is Harrison’s ace and a Bluffton University recruit. Sowders said he never would’ve believed any of that four years ago.
“He’s what you call a self-made baseball player,” Sowders said. “He worked his way into this position. We’ll tell stories about him for years to come. About how he got here as a freshman and we didn’t know if we were going to keep him, and now he’s our No. 1 pitcher and going to college to play baseball. It’s been fun to watch.”
Sowders plans to start Bailey Esterman on the mound against Northwest and Weber in the Ross rematch. Harrison defeated visiting Northwest 12-2 on Monday, but Sowders said the Wildcats generally play poorly on the Knights’ diamond.
“We called this week our World Series, and we started the week down three games to none,” Sowders said. “We had to win Monday to make it 3-1. Today we had to win to make it 3-2, so now we’ve made it to Game 6 on Wednesday. We know we have to go undefeated this week in order to get a share of the league title.
“We haven’t been playing very good baseball, so this is a big, big win for us, plus it’s turned into a pretty good rivalry between us and Ross. They think the league title goes through them and we think the league title goes through us, so we’ve both got the same mentality. It’s fitting that we’re going to be the last league game of the year.”
Rettinger said Montana Allgaier will be the Rams’ starting pitcher against Talawanda.
“We’ll just wake up with positive minds. Tomorrow’s a new day and it’s baseball, so we’ll be fine,” Tatum said. “We’ll be ready for Senior Night, and then we’ll be ready for Harrison on Thursday at our own house.”
Ross and Harrison are the only two schools that have won SWOC baseball crowns. The Wildcats were outright champions in 2015 and 2016, the Rams were outright winners in 2017, and they shared the title in 2013 and 2014.
WP — Joey Lawhorn (4-1); LP — Trevor House (3-1). Records: R 17-3, 8-2 SWOC; H 15-6, 7-3 SWOC
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