Division II baseball: Ross takes aim at CHCA, first regional win in program history

The Ross Rams pose with their hardware Monday after defeating Tippecanoe 6-3 at Mason to repeat as Division II district champions. RICK CASSANO/STAFF
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The Ross Rams pose with their hardware Monday after defeating Tippecanoe 6-3 at Mason to repeat as Division II district champions. RICK CASSANO/STAFF

The road to a milestone victory is not an easy one for Ross High School’s baseball team.

The Rams are hoping to make history Thursday at 2 p.m. when they meet Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy in a Division II regional semifinal at Mason.

Ross has never registered a regional win, dropping semifinal decisions to St. Paris Graham in 1995, Kettering Alter in 2001 and Columbus DeSales in 2017. And CHCA is making its first appearance in Division II this year thanks to competitive balance, but the Eagles made it to the D-III state semifinals last season.

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“I think there’s four really good teams playing Thursday. It’s going to be a really good day of baseball,” said Rams coach Jason Rettinger, with Chaminade Julienne and Columbus Hartley set to meet in the second semifinal at 5 p.m. The regional final is scheduled for 5 p.m. on Friday.

“We’ve been kind of digging these wins out and finding a way,” Rettinger added. “We’ve done a really good job of pressuring defenses and forcing teams to make mistakes. That’s been our thing. We’ve got a really good atmosphere in the dugout, and the coaching staff has done a really good job of keeping them steady during games. I think our guys feel like they’re going to win Thursday. But I’m sure CHCA feels like they’re going to win too.”

Ross (24-6) and CHCA (24-5) have played regular-season games the last two years. The Rams won 11-10 in extra innings last season, and the Eagles won 12-10 in 2016.

CHCA coach Tony Schulz was in attendance at Mason on Monday as Ross rallied from a 3-0 deficit to beat Tippecanoe 6-3 in a district final.

“They’re a fun team to watch,” he said. “They’re just really scrappy. You never feel like they’re ever closed out. We’re going to have to battle and play defense and have some great pitching and timely hitting.”

Schulz will start his ace, junior right-hander Clayton Brock, on the mound Thursday. Brock is 5-2 with a 3.23 earned run average and has 27 strikeouts in 34.2 innings.

Rettinger is leaning toward junior right-hander Paul Schroeder (3-1, 2.03, 34 strikeouts, 41.1 innings), though he won’t rule out starting his ace, junior lefty Trevor House (3-1, 3.26, 62 strikeouts, 34.1 innings).

“House threw the first playoff game and had some tricep tightness, so we’ve not been throwing him,” Rettinger siad. “He’s cleared and good to go, but Paul’s been doing a really good job. He pitched really well against Hamilton, he beat Badin, he pitched really well against Taylor. He had one bad start against Edgewood … it was kind of his first big game, and he didn’t react well to it. But since then, he’s been really good.

“We’ll keep using Montana (Allgaier) out of the pen as need be. Trevor felt good (Tuesday), but to get where we want to get, we’re going to need all three of those guys. So I would guess we’ll go with Schroeder on Thursday with Montana in relief, which gives Trevor even an extra day. And if we are fortunate enough to get to Friday, we’ll go with House.”

CHCA has a team ERA of 1.83 and a team batting average of .326. Junior third baseman Lucas Rotello and junior designated hitter Cayse Osborne are the top two hitters at .457 and .429, respectively. Osborne has a team-leading 27 RBIs, and Schulz loves the leadership of junior Oakley Tippen behind the plate.

“Everything you hear is the same. They’re solid everywhere,” Rettinger said. “That’s no surprise. Tony’s a really good coach.”

The Eagles shared the Miami Valley Conferene Scarlet Division championship with Summit Country Day. CHCA has a base enrollment of 161 boys, making it the third-smallest D-II baseball school in Ohio — only Summit (154) and Gates Mills Gilmour Academy (150) are smaller.

“It’s been a nice adjustment into D-II this year,” Schulz said. “I would say we had a fairly strong nonleague schedule … I’m not sure anyone had a tougher one in Division II. We make sure we play the opponents that are going to prepare us for the tournament. We did our best as a coaching staff to schedule that way.

“I feel like we’re peaking at the right time and playing good baseball right now. You never feel settled, but we’re confident.”

Ross has seven players batting between .340 and .375, led by senior first baseman Logan Fuller’s .374. Fuller paces the squad with 27 RBIs, and senior catcher Andrew Beebe has 20 of the Rams’ 108 stolen bases.

Allgaier is 8-0 on the mound. Six of those wins have come in relief.

“It’s like a running joke with our guys,” Rettinger said of Allgaier’s high number of “vulture” victories. “I would really like it if we were actually winning at some point in the game before the fifth or sixth inning, then maybe he could just get a save. That would be nice.”

Rettinger was a senior on the Rams’ first regional team in 1995. He said he was on deck when the one-run defeat ended.