MASON — In his 20 years as the head coach for Chaminade Julienne High School’s baseball team, Mike Barhorst has seen plenty of exceptional individual performances.
Sunday afternoon in the Division II regional finals at Mason, pitcher Sebastian Gongora provided one more.
Gongora tossed a six-hitter with nine strikeouts as defending state champion CJ rolled Ross 6-0, advancing to the Final Four while ending the Rams’ dream season.
“Honestly, he was the same as always,” Barhorst said of his 6-foot-4 left-hander. “His command was solid, he kept the batter off balance, and even the hits he gives up are usually dribblers or balls that fall that are not hit hard. He is just a shutdown pitcher.”
The Eagles (25-2) will head to Canal Park in Akron to face Van Wert in a 1 p.m. state semifinal Saturday. Gates Mills Gilmour Academy will meet St. Clairsville in the first semifinal at 10 a.m.
“It is just awesome to get back,” said Barhorst, who is retiring at the end of the season. “It is unbelievable, but it says a lot about these kids. This group of kids are amazing. They want to win every game. “
Sophomore A.J. Solomon got CJ started early, getting hit by a pitch and moving to third on an errant pickoff throw before scoring on Andrew Simones’ fielder’s choice.
Solomon came up big again in the second inning, providing a two-run single in a 10-pitch at-bat that both coaches said was pivotal.
“That at-bat was big,” Ross coach Ben Toerner said after consoling his players.”Momentun definitely shifted their way, and with the way their guy was throwing, it was tough.”
Ross enjoyed its first-ever trip to the regional finals, but Toerner said Gongora was too much to overcome, especially after Solomon’s hit put the Eagles up 3-0.
“That kid is a really good pitcher,” Toerner said. “I don’t know if we got away from what we usually do, but he had a lot to do with it. He is just so tough to hit.”
Aided by walks and hit batters, CJ added two more runs in the third to go up 5-0, left the bases full in the fifth, and Gongora’s run-scoring single in the sixth ended the scoring.
Ross pitchers Trevor House and Cooper Shields combined to allow eight hits while walking six and hitting two batters.
Barhorst said he was thrilled with the Eagles’ patience at the plate.
“We really wanted to be patient and make their pitchers pitch,” Barhorst said. “I liked the way we worked the count. It was one of our best offensive games.”
“The same old story, walks will haunt,” Toerner said. “We have dealt with this before, but today didn’t go our way. Good teams will make you pay for mistakes, and with hit batters and walks, they made us pay.”
Ethan Hall, Zach Ungermann, Tyler Hoover, Ryan Merkle, Shields and House had hits for Ross, which finished the year 24-6.
The Rams are saying goodbye to eight seniors, and Toerner said their contributions are impossible to put into words.
“These seniors have put in so much work,” Toerner said. “Their work ethic, their leadership, the expectations that have been set, I don’t know if I can thank them enough. This was just such an awesome season, dand the team was so much fun to be around. It was a great group to be around.”
WP — Sebastian Gongora (8-0); LP — Trrevor House (5-1). Records: R 24-6, C 25-2
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