XENIA — Coaches Joe Yount of Huber Heights Wayne and Barry Claus of Xenia joked about whether or not their evenly matched teams would end up playing yet another extra innings contest this season. They had met twice during the regular season with both games going extras, so it was a possibility.
That is, it was possible until Wayne’s Garrett Valentine came to the plate with the bases loaded with Warriors in the top of the seventh inning.
Valentine lined a shot into the left centerfield gap, near the 354-feet sign, for a bases clearing double which gave 13th seeded Wayne a 6-3 win over No. 7 seed Xenia, May 14 in the opening round of the Division I sectional baseball tournament, on Xenia’s home ball diamond.
“I have the utmost respect for Barry and his coaching staff and team, and we joked about playing extra innings again — and we about did!” Wayne’s Yount said. “I’ve been saying it all season long that, once the Calebs are done throwing, we’re in trouble. So luckily Kaleb Stines really battled to give us six strong innings on the mound today, and then Caleb Mervar came in and pitched well in the seventh.”
The game featured a reversed third-out call that the umpires changed into a Xenia infield hit in the fifth inning, prompting Wayne to leave its dugout to record the third out again. Then in the sixth inning, Wayne centerfielder Riley Duchesne appeared to have made a shoestring catch of a sinking liner hit by Xenia’s Devin Hall, only to be overruled by the infield umpire. A stolen base and dropped third strike later, and Hall scored on a Blayne Dudley single to tie the game at 3-all. Dudley was then picked off of second base on a pitch Claus, who was coaching from the third-base line, thought had been a balk.
Claus thought his Bucs had stranded too many base runners on base (unofficially eight), and didn’t take advantage of several hitter-friendly pitch counts, where they were ahead in the count with three balls-one strike or two balls- no strikes counts.
“Hey, they’re just high school kids and they were doing their best to make big plays for us out there,” he said. “Hat’s off to Wayne. I’m telling ya, they’re a better team than their record. … And I’ll give credit to the umpires, too. Both of us, Joe and I, we both questioned some calls, but the umpires did get together and they talked about it, and if they thought the call was wrong they changed it. A lot of umpires don’t always want to do that, so I appreciate their work tonight.”
Xenia starter Dylan Hall had held Wayne to two runs and three hits over his 5 1/3 innings of work. Wayne starter Stines limited the Bucs to their three runs over six innings of work. Xenia out-hit Wayne, 9-6, but Valentine’s bomb with the bases loaded turned out to be the difference.
Wayne will now take on fifth seeded Troy at 5 p.m. Thursday May 16 on the Trojans’ home field in the tournament’s second round.
Yount has some words for his son-in-law, who had told him before the season started that there was no way Wayne would record 10 wins this season.
“I look forward to telling him about today’s win,” Yount laughed. “We’re now 10-13!”
Xenia’s season ends with its second consecutive 20-win season. The Bucs finished the year 20-8.
“It was a good season. Back-to-back 20 wins. … I know our seniors will be sorely missed. I know they already have their college plans, and that doesn’t always happen when you’re a coach — Sam (Lockwood)’s going to play football at Wittenberg University, Blayne (Dudley) is playing football at Capital University, and Warren (Mahar) and Dylan (Hall) are both going to be playing baseball at Clark State University.
“Those guys were a big part in turning our program around. We’re gonna miss ‘em, but on the other hand we have a whole bunch of talented kids coming back. You can bet that we’re gonna work hard, come back next year, and try to continue to build this program.”