Prep baseball: Lakota East fights off Fairfield to remain unbeaten

FAIRFIELD — The bats provided lots of hard-hit balls for Lakota East High School’s baseball team, but not many runs.

Fortunately, the Thunderhawks don’t need a lot of scoring when Nate Haberthier is on the mound.

The junior right-hander and Ohio State University verbal commit continues to show he’s among the best pitchers in the Greater Miami Conference and threw a three-hitter Wednesday against Fairfield, keeping the Thunderhawks unbeaten with a 2-1 road win at Joe Nuxhall Field.

» PHOTOS: Rick Cassano’s gallery from Joe Nuxhall Field

“They had one of the best arms in the GMC coming out to throw against us, so we knew that we weren’t going to just sit here and hit the ball all night,” said senior shortstop Cameron Tenhundfeld, who scored the Indians’ lone run in the sixth inning. “We had to scrape for runs.

“We did get runners on base … we just couldn’t score them. We have to convert. We have to find a way.”

East coach Ray Hamilton felt Haberthier, who walked the first two Indians in the sixth, was fading a bit late in the game. That didn’t mean he was ready to pull his ace.

“Pitch count-wise, when he started the sixth inning, he was still in a good spot that we felt comfortable with,” Hamilton said. “At that point, I didn’t have anybody loose, so we were going to ride him out. You expect a guy like that to work his way out of trouble.”

The Thunderhawks improved to 6-0 overall and 5-0 in the conference heading into Friday’s rematch with Fairfield (4-2, 3-2) in Liberty Township.

Hamilton believes East is in the GMC title chase for the long haul because his team has a strong mix of arms and hitters. Through six games, the Thunderhawks’ margin of victory is 53-11.

“We’ve got to tighten some things up defensively,” Hamilton said. “But I know this: It’s pretty hard to find anybody that’s going to have three guys to run out there on the mound like we’ve got. With Hab, Grayson (Hamilton) and the (Andrew) Bachman kid when he gets rolling, I feel real good about that.”

Haberthier struck out five and walked three against the Indians. He knew there was a chance of getting lifted after the back-to-back walks to Tenhundfeld and Aidan Post in the sixth.

“But I know my coach has trust in me,” Haberthier said. “I was losing command in the end, but I got it back.”

Tenhundfeld scored from second base on Caleb Schram’s sacrifice bunt to make it a 2-1 game. Fairfield coach Tommy Begley didn’t send Tenhundfeld, but loved the aggressiveness.

“That was him going on instinct, and that was great,” Begley said. “He’s really the only guy we have with significant varsity experience. When you’ve got a three-year varsity guy, he can make that play. A guy who’s still trying to find his way on the varsity is going to hesitate and not be able to make that play in the moment.”

Tenhundfeld was happy to give his team a spark.

“First of all, it was a great bunt by Caleb Schram,” he said. “No offense to the pitcher, but he’s not the most agile person, so if they went to first, I knew I was going all the way. The first baseman looked up at second before he looked at me. I caught a break there.”

East escaped further trouble when Zach Edwards popped out to the left side and pinch-runner John Warner was nailed trying to advance to third base in what turned out to be a double play.

“At first I didn’t think they had any shot at catching it,” Haberthier said. “But (shortstop) Will Koger went and got it, and I was like, ‘Oh crap, I’ve got to go cover third. So I just took off. Luckily the throw was right to my chest, and I just laid the tag down.

“You don’t practice that play very often. That was just my instinct to go to the base ahead. That’s what we’re always told — base ahead.”

Ricky Berrios reached base on an infield single and Colin Singer walked in the bottom of the seventh for the Indians, but Haberthier retired Gabe Bauman on a grounder to end the game.

The Thunderhawks tallied their two runs in the third inning on RBI singles by Mitchell Vincent and Sean Church. Vincent and Grayson Hamilton had three hits apiece for the winners.

“I thought our approach at the plate today was good,” Ray Hamilton said. “We hit a bunch of balls hard, just right at ’em. And our guys will compete a little bit too.

“We had runners in scoring position all game long and managed two runs. I thought Hab kind of kept them in check, but it still went right down to the end. That’s GMC baseball. That’s going to happen on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.”

Berrios had a pair of singles for Fairfield. Lefty Post pitched five solid innings for the hosts before Nathan Sheriff faced two batters in the sixth, leaving the game after taking a smash by Christian Bodden off his lower right leg. Dylan Beal then finished on the hill.

“In my mind this was going to be a measuring stick for us and obviously you want to win, but I’m proud of the way we battled and fought and stayed in the ballgame against a very talented team,” Begley said.

“You take away the third inning when they scored two runs here and the first inning at Colerain last week, and we’re undefeated right now. We don’t know what lies ahead in the GMC because it’s such a tough league, but six games in, we feel good about our squad.”

Tenhundfeld is expected to get the Indians’ mound start Friday. Ray Hamilton said Devon Milburn or Bachman will be East’s starter.

Lakota East 002-000-0—2-9-4

Fairfield 000-001-0—1-3-3

WP — Nate Haberthier (2-0); LP — Aidan Post (0-1). Records: L 6-0, 5-0 GMC; F 4-2, 3-2 GMC

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