WASHINGTON TOWNSHIP, Montgomery County — After starting the season 1-6, the last thing Carroll baseball coach Mike Sheets was thinking was a district title.
“I didn’t see this on the horizon,” Sheets said after his Patriots upset top-seeded and two-time defending Division-II state champion Chaminade-Julienne, 8-5, in a district semifinal at Dayton Christian High School on Tuesday.
Who can blame him? The Patriots lost arguably their best pitcher and hitter — senior Jacob Maurer — to an injury and the roster was replete with players who didn’t play on the varsity team in 2019. But a five-game winning streak the beginning of the month changed everything for the Carroll outlook.
“The kids started to believe in themselves,” Sheets said.
And now the Patriots — 8-1 in their last nine games — are in their first district title game since the magical 2002 season. They’ll take on Ross, a 9-7 winner over Taylor at a yet-to-be-determined site on Thursday.
It didn’t look good for Carroll (12-14) early. The Pats led 1-0 after the top of the first, thanks to a single by Shane Ochs, a wild pitch and a couple errors. Carroll appeared to have another run when Steven Chapman tried to score on a wild pitch. He appeared to slide under the tag, but was called out by the umpire who may have been out of position to see the whole play.
The Eagles (15-14) capitalized on that momentum-shifting call and scored three runs on a pair of one-out doubles and a two-RBI single off Chapman, who came within one out of a complete game.
Carroll grabbed the lead for good in the third scoring four runs on hits by Caleb Cavender and Jackson Malesko and a bases-loaded walk by Evan Kneer.
That was all Chapman needed to back back into the groove.
“He’s one of those guys, if you can get him a lead, he’s kind of a bulldog,” Sheets said.
Carroll scored two more in the fourth after a standup triple from Michael Duckro, a walk to Ochs, an RBI single from Chapman and a fielder’s choice from Malesko. There were two walks in the inning and at one point after a high pitch, a Carroll player playfully yelled, “Get him a bucket, he’s throwing up.”
The teams traded runs in the bottom of the fourth and top of the fifth with Carroll’s coming via a walk to Chapman and a triple from Malesko. The Patriots scored their final run in the top of the seventh after a walk by Kneer, a stolen base, a wild pitch and a perfect suicide squeeze from Albert Brust.
Chapman, at 116 pitches, started the seventh and got two outs before the 125 pitch limit came into play. Duckro finished the game, giving up one hit that scored a run charged to Chapman. Chapman finished with 11 strikeouts.
“It felt great,” he said after having a water cooler dumped on him. “They’re a great team. It felt good to beat them.”
Chapman said after the first inning he just had to settle down and make pitches.
“I gotta go back and throw strikes,” he said. “And see if they’ll hit.”