By John Bombatch
KETTERING — Three champions.
With the sun going down and Kettering Fairmont fans, Beavercreek fans and even a few Centerville Elks looking on, the host Fairmont Firebirds needed 12 innings to defeat Beavercreek and forge a three-way tie atop the Greater Western Ohio Conference’s Central Division.
Drew Gudgell smacked a single into right field to score Firebird teammate Tommy Bell from second and give Fairmont a 1-0 win. Gudgell was soon mobbed by his teammates, as Beavercreek looked on in frustration. Had the Beavers won Wednesday night’s game, they would’ve won the GWOC Central regular season crown all by themselves.
Instead, Fairmont, Centerville and Beavercreek will share the title. The three teams split their home-and-home meetings with each other.
“Oh man, I’ll tell you what. You won’t find a better high school baseball game than that one right there,” Fairmont coach Kent Drake said. “What can you say? Your starter (senior Alex Decker) goes 10 innings and keeps Beavercreek right where you want them at zero. Their starter (Jackson Back) matches us punch for punch and goes 10 innings, too! It just came down to which team could execute.”
Back pitched a phenomenal game. The Beavercreek lefty limited the Firebirds to one hit in his 10 innings of work. He would’ve probably wanted to pitch longer, but the Ohio High School Athletic Association has a rule that a pitcher can’t throw more than 10 innings in three day’s time.
Back and Decker used their allotment on Wednesday.
“It took Beavercreek eight innings to do it yesterday (in a 1-0 win at Beavercreek High), and it took us 12 innings today. So it took us 20 innings before we could finally execute,” Drake said.
Beavercreek (19-4, 8-2 GWOC South) had a runner in scoring position on five different occasions, but couldn’t bring them home. Chad Anders was left on third in the first inning, Jackson Tedder got to second before Fairmont retired the side in the third, Drew Dillon found himself left on third in the fifth inning, and he was left there again in the 12th.
Unofficially, Beavercreek left nine runners on base. Fairmont had stranded four when Gudgell’s only hit scored Bell. Each team had three hits in 12 innings of play.
“Jackson Back pitched one heckuva game, and I’m really proud of him. To use up all of your allotment of innings in one day — a three-day allotment as mandated by the state — it’s something I’ve never seen before, and probably won’t see it again,” Beavercreek coach Brandon Long said. “Their guy threw really well out there, too. It was a great ballgame. We were knocking on the door all day long, but we just didn’t get the job done.
“I’m not taking anything away from anybody, but (the three-way tie) says a lot about the GWOC Central. You can’t take a day off in this division. To have three teams finish at 8-2 in the division? That says a lot. Congrats to coach Drake and his Firebirds, and to coach (Jason) Whited and the Elks. We’re proud to be a part of this.”
Beavercreek has three games yet to play out of the division: They will host Lebanon at 5 p.m. Friday, then they’ll host Vandalia Butler at noon on Saturday before playing their final regular-season game at 5 p.m. Monday at Springboro.
Fairmont will host Lebanon on Thursday, then they’ll host Troy on Friday and wind up the regular season with a game at crosstown rival Kettering Alter on Saturday.