By John Bombatch
BEAVERCREEK — Opposing coaches have credited his team with having the best pitching staff in the state, and Beavercreek coach Brandon Long might have one of the better hitting teams as well. Long had his Beaver bunch running through a five-inning split-squad game on Monday, in preparation for this week’s Dayton 3 Bracket sectional championship game.
“We’re working on situational hitting. Our defense has been solid all year, so I’m not really worried about that,” Long said, “but situational hitting, whether it be a bunt, or a hit-n-run, that’s what we’re going to try and focus on. You know, if you have a runner on third base, depending on the number of outs you’re working on getting a fly ball deep enough, or anything hit behind the runner to the right side, that kind of thing.”
Beavercreek (22-6) is making its fourth trip to the sectional title game in the past five years. They’ll play the Bellefontaine High Chieftains (21-8) from the Central Buckeye Conference on Thursday. The two teams didn’t play each other this season, but Beavercreek did defeat them 3-2 last season.
“We know they have good fundamentals, and we know they can all put the barrel on the ball,” Long said. “We know about the Jones kid and what he can bring to the table, too. We think we’re ready for it.”
Bellefontaine’s top pitcher, Tyler Jones, led the CBC with eight pitching wins, he was third in the conference in strikeouts with 57, and was fifth best with an 0.98 ERA. Beavercreek has a few arms of its own.
Kettering Fairmont coach Kent Drake called Beavercreek seniors Jackson Tedder and Jackson Back perhaps the two best pitchers in the state of Ohio, after facing them earlier this month. With Tedder signed to play at the University of Virginia after high school, and Back signed to play at Coker College (S.C.), few coaches would argue with Drake’s assessment.
Tedder currently has an 0.13 earned run average in nine games and 53 innings of work. He leads the Greater Western Ohio Conference in strikeouts with 80. Back’s ERA is at 0.70 in 40 innings with 28 Ks.
The team’s two other starters — Treyben Funderberg and Brandon DeWitt — just add to the Beavers’ pitching arsenal. Funderberg has 33 strikeouts and a 1.38 ERA, while DeWitt has 40 Ks and sports an earned run mark of 0.93.
“I don’t disagree by any means. It’s a good problem to have. Jackson Tedder and Jackson Back are amazing pitchers, and with our relief corps of Treyben Funderberg and Brandon DeWitt we feel confident to throw any four of those guys out there to get the job done, so I don’t disagree with that assessment at all,” Long said.
Case in point, each pitcher tossed in Monday’s simulation game and there was no noticeable let up in accuracy or speed throughout the game. Facing such solid pitching all season long is helping the Beavercreek bats, too.
As of Monday, Beavercreek has seven batters with 58 at-bats or more who are hitting over .303 at the plate.
Funderberg leads the way at .393, followed by Corey Jordison (.367), Ben Weese (.360), Back (.356), Tedder (.324), DeWitt (.310), and Chad Anders (.303).
Beavercreek lost in the district final last season to eventual state champ Cincinnati Moeller. The Crusaders ended Beavercreek’s season two seasons ago in the regional semifinals. So Long and his squad have higher expectations than sectionals once again this year.
“These guys are used to the post season,” Long said. “These guys play hard, they play for each other, and they work their tails off everyday … Sectional finals is not our goal. We want to go beyond that. And if we take care of business, we should be able to do that.”
Thursday’s game is scheduled to start at 5 p.m. Thursday at Centerville High.