XENIA — Buccaneers pitcher Blayne Dudley thought he could go into Tuesday’s May 1 high school baseball game as a relief pitcher against Fairborn. He just didn’t know it would be so soon.
After Xenia starting pitcher Warren Mahar developed control issues, allowing visiting Fairborn to score a quick four runs in the first inning, Dudley came in and limited the Skyhawks to six hits and one other run. It was enough of a pitching effort to quell the Skyhawks bats and get Xenia back in the ball game with some offense of its own, and the Bucs eventually rallied to a 7-5 win.
“Coach mentioned that I might be pitching, earlier in the week. I wasn’t sure when it was going to be, but it happened to be tonight and it happened to work out,” Dudley said, still with a big grin on his head. “I just tried to throw strikes and let them hit the ball so’s my defense could make plays. They obviously did pretty well.”
Xenia did not record an error. Neither team did, in a very well-played battle. And Mahar made two sliding catches in the outfield to further help his team.
With the win, Xenia clinched the Greater Western Ohio Conference’s American South division title. The GWOC website archives go back to the 2006 season. The best Xenia had done in the South before Tuesday was a second-place divisional finish, behind co-champs Lebanon and Springboro, in 2015.
“We hadn’t been in this situation in awhile. … so it was all new to them,” Xenia coach Barry Claus said. “I’m proud of Blayne. He pitched a whale of a game last Thursday in a 4-0 loss to Tipp City. We had a lot of confidence in him. We thought we’d be using him for long relief. We just didn’t know he’d be in there that long!
“I’m proud of this whole team. We’re a young squad. We start 3-4 sophomores and a freshman, and we’ve got two juniors, and some seniors (Logan Bilbrey, Wade Ferrence and Travis Newell) who are very important to our program. … We let Fairborn get out in front 4-0, but came back and battled our way back in it. Once we tied them up, I thought we were pretty even the rest of the way.”
Fairborn drew five walks in the first inning, with Andrew Yeary, Kahlil Lettice, Andrew Trickett and Garison Secrest each coming around to score. Xenia responded in the inning with runs scored by Bilbrey and Kyle Lane, off RBIs from Aydan Evans and Mahar.
A bad-hop Bilbrey single over Fairborn shortstop Will Coleman’s glove enabled Xenia’s Joey Lewis and Dudley to tie things up with scores in the second inning.
Another bad hop, this time a double that bounced over Fairborn third baseman Hunter Warner’s head, enabled two more Buccaneers runs to cross the plate for a 6-4 lead after four innings of play. Xenia’s Lewis scored again in the fifth off a double by Ferrence for an insurance run.
Xenia gave itself a chance to clinch the title, by defeating Fairborn by a 5-4 score on April 30 in Fairborn. The two GWOC South foes will face each other again in the opening round of the Division I sectional postseason tournament, Tuesday, May 8 at Xenia.
“Both teams are pretty similar in how they play. I think it’s going to be another good game on Tuesday,” Fairborn coach Josh Patrick said. “I tip my hat to Xenia for coming out and playing good baseball these past couple days. They earned themselves the GWOC South championship. Congratulations to Coach Claus and his team.”
Contact John Bombatch at 937-372-4444, Ext. 2123.