HAMILTON — Walkoff moments don’t come along every day, so Zach Ungermann was eager to experience one for himself.
The junior outfielder delivered an RBI single with one out in the bottom of the seventh inning Thursday in a Division II district championship game, giving Ross High School’s baseball team a 1-0 victory over Springfield Kenton Ridge at Hamilton’s Stang Field.
“Oh man, my heart stopped. My heart completely stopped,” said Ungermann, in his first season with the Rams after transferring from Redondo Beach, Calif. “I was rounding first, heading to second, watching the play at the plate, and I just got chills at that point. I couldn’t believe it. I was so happy and excited and stoked that we get to move on and play another day.”
» PHOTO GALLERY: 15 images from Hamilton’s Stang Field
Senior catcher Keegan Nickoson lined a one-out single off the glove of Cougars shortstop Chris Lyle, went to second when Collin Perkins balked, then came home after Ungermann’s base hit found the grass in short right-center field.
It’s the third consecutive district title for Ross (23-4) and its fifth overall.
“I’m just so proud of these boys. They deserve this,” first-year Rams coach Ben Toerner said. “They always get after it, whether it be a Tuesday in December in the weight room or today. They come to fight no matter what it takes.”
Senior Trevor House, who’s set to continue his career at Eastern Michigan University, pitched a four-hitter with 12 strikeouts. He played a big role in the postgame victory dogpile as well.
“I’m the one who tackled Zach and then everyone started piling on us, so I was at the bottom,” House said. “I didn’t feel too well in there.”
House didn’t feel like he was in top form on the mound, but the left-hander was strong enough on this day, registering at least one strikeout in every inning but the sixth.
Ethan Hall contributed two hits for Ross, which will face either Fenwick or Franklin in a 2 p.m. regional semifinal Thursday at Mason.
The Rams have never earned a regional win, dropping semifinal decisions to St. Paris Graham in 1995, Alter in 2001, Columbus DeSales in 2017 and Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy last year.
“We’ve got all the confidence in the world right now,” House said. “I think the program’s in a great spot, and I hope it continues to grow and get even better. With Coach Toerner, I feel like that’s possible.”
Toerner said Ross has the confidence to play two more weeks of baseball. The Rams have nine one-run victories this season.
“We’ve got the team that can do it,” Toerner said. “We’ve just got to keep our heads right and keep doing our jobs. We knew going into this season how good this team was and what they could do, and they’re starting to prove us right.”
Ungermann was 0-for-2 against Perkins, a junior right-hander, before coming through with the game-winner on a 1-2 pitch. Confidence wasn’t a problem when Ungermann stepped up to the plate.
“I was all over him all day long,” he said. “I put a ball over the right-field fence … foul territory, but it was a pretty far shot. I was confident that we could hop on this guy and get something done.”
Ungermann said his single came on an inside changeup.
“He was able to get two strikes on me,” he said. “I just thought to myself, ‘Relax. Just put the ball in play and let it happen. Just throw your hands at the ball. Don’t think. See the ball, hit the ball.’
“It was pure confidence at that point. I was a little nervous because I just love my seniors so much right here in this program. They’re a great group of guys. They’re so supportive and encouraging, and I didn’t want the season to end right there. I know we have a better future ahead of us, and I want to keep going.”
House finished seven pitches short of the Ohio High School Athletic Association limit of 125. He issued four walks and gave up three singles and a double, the latter coming off Alex Ward’s bat with two outs in the top of the seventh.
“I couldn’t really find my curveball or my slider today,” House said. “The ball kept getting stuck in my hand and I kept spiking it, so I guess the fastball was probably my best pitch.
“To tell you the truth, I felt a little weak coming into today. About the fifth inning I kind of hit that wall, and then it just kind of went away. The adrenaline kicked in and that was it. If Coach Toerner came out there, it was going to be hard to get the ball out of my hands. I love it out there when games are close like that.”
Toerner praised Kenton Ridge (22-6) for its play. Perkins pitched a six-hitter with one strikeout and no walks, and he got a lot of outstanding defense behind him, especially from outfielders Calvin Dibert, Andrew Sharp and Garrett Kelly.
“We have one of the best outfields around. Those guys go get it,” Cougars coach Aaron Shaffer said. “We’ve seen those catches all year. That’s why we’re so confident with the big boy on the mound because he’s going to pound the zone and we’re going to play good defense.”
Kaelan Lemen had two hits for Kenton Ridge, a district finalist the last three seasons. The Cougars tied for second place with Springfield Shawnee behind Plain City Jonathan Alder in the Central Buckeye Conference Kenton Trail Division this spring.
Kenton Ridge had some tough breaks in this situation, including the length of the trip to Hamilton (weather issues caused the game to be moved from Carlisle). The Cougars had two runners erased on interference calls — it was ruled that they were running inside the first-base line.
“I didn’t see it the way they saw it … that’s just the way it goes. We still had some chances,” said Shaffer, who’s losing eight seniors. “It was a great high school baseball game. Those are fun to play in.
“They can walk out of here with their heads high because we competed. I know it’s hard now, but you’ve got to look at the big picture, and 22 wins is something they can take with them.”
Kenton Ridge 000-000-0—0-4-0
WP — Trevor House (5-0); LP — Collin Perkins (7-1). Records: K 22-6, R 23-4
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