Six errors, just as many batters hit by pitches, eight runners tagged out on the basepaths — why not a walkoff steal of home?
Senior third baseman Kyle Kellum capped New Miami High School’s seventh-inning, three-run rally by stealing home with one out and the bases loaded to propel the Vikings into next week’s Division IV sectional finals with an improbable 5-4 win over visiting Cincinnati Christian on Wednesday.
New Miami coach Ralph Lunsford already had a squeeze play on when Cougars coach Curtus Moak brought in his fourth pitcher, sophomore left-hander Jacob Carroll. Once play resumed, the batter — sophomore first baseman Ronnie Bowman — didn’t even get a chance to square around before Kellum set sail for the plate.
“I read the coach’s mind,” said Kellum, whose mental error opened the door for Cincinnati Christian’s three-run third inning.
He practically had to run through Bowman to score.
“He tried to spread his legs wide enough for me to slide through,” said Kellum, who didn’t even draw a throw. “Nothing was going to keep me from getting to the plate.”
Second-seeded New Miami (15-9) reached its first sectional baseball final since 2014. The Vikings are scheduled to meet fourth-seeded Miami Valley Christian Academy next Wednesday at 5 p.m. at Kings.
The loss was Cincinnati Christian’s second of the season on a walkoff steal of home, Moak said.
“I’m proud of our guys,” said Moak, whose team finished 11-13. “We had three wins last season and we were a couple of outs away from a sectional championship (game).”
Senior pitcher-shortstop Christian Acus sparked the winning rally with a leadoff single to left and reached second on an error on center fielder-pitcher Wayden McIntyre’s grounder. Kellum was hit by a pitch to load the bases and senior catcher Austin Howard came up with a sacrifice fly. Senior second baseman Jordan Phillips and freshman left fielder Danny Spivey were hit by consecutive pitches to force in the tying run.
“The rest is a blur,” Lunsford said of what happened before the seventh. “We didn’t play very well. Our base running was atrocious. We’re very aggressive, but we don’t always run intelligently.”
Acus lined Nolan Crow’s second pitch of the game up the left-center field gap for a leadoff double. He went to third on a Kellum ground out to second and scored on Crow’s two-out wild pitch for a 1-0 lead.
CCS took a 3-1 lead in the third while getting one ball out of the infield. Carroll, who started the game in right field, led off with a walk and went to second on Howard’s errant pickoff attempt. Howard made up for it by throwing Carroll out at third on an attempted steal.
Junior left fielder Noah Jordan also walked and went to second on Daniel Nimmo’s single to left — the Cougars’ first hit of the game. Sophomore shortstop Mitchell Smith popped out foul to Bowman.
Then it got weird.
CCS loaded the bases when Nimmo beat Kellum to third base on senior third baseman Stephen Lunt’s grounder. Acus hit senior first baseman Zach Bush with a pitch to push across the tying run. Senior catcher Alec Gregory came up with an RBI infield single to sophomore shortstop Jaden Phillips for the go-ahead run, and Lunt dashed home on an Acus wild pitch.
The bottom of the third was equally intriguing. Acus led off with a single and was caught stealing. McIntyre singled, went to second on a wild pitch and scored on Kellum’s double. Kellum went to third while Gregory argued the call, but was tagged out trying to score on Howard’s squeeze bunt. The Cougars made it a double play when Howard was thrown out trying to advance to second.
That’s three singles, one double, one run and three runners out on the basepaths.
Lunt drove in Jordan with a two-out single to give the Cougars a 4-2 lead in the sixth.
Cincinnati Christian 003-001-0—4-7-3
New Miami 101-000-3—5-8-3
WP — Wayden McIntyre (3-0); LP — Daniel Nimmo (1-2). Records: C 11-13, N 15-9