By John Bombatch
XENIA — With a series of solid defensive efforts behind him, Xenia Christian junior right hander Austin Frueh did the rest.
Frueh scattered six Middletown Christian hits and struck out 10 Eagles batters to nab the complete-game pitching win. He also led his Ambassadors team in hitting with two singles and three runs batted in, in Tuesday’s 4-2 Division IV first round sectional win at Grady’s Field on the Athletes In Action sports complex.
“Our defense was phenomenal and Austin’s pitching was just out of sight. He dug down and got it when he needed it,” said Xenia Christian coach Scot Johnson. “He usually pitches a complete game and it’s rare when I ever have to pull him out.”
Frueh hit a sacrifice fly in the first inning to bring home Ashton Burke with the game’s first run. His third-inning single scored his younger brother, Josh, from second to put the Ambassadors out in front 2-0.
Xenia Christian’s top third of its batting order — Burke, David Kensinger and Austin Frueh — came up with back-to-back-to-back hits with two out in the fifth inning to enable the Ambassadors (7-7) to go out in front by a 4-0 count. Kensinger tripled to score Burke, then Frueh singled to drive home Kensinger.
Middletown Christian (9-11) responded in the fifth with two runs on a two-RBI single by Jarod Hamlin. But Hamlin was later thrown out while trying to steal second, and Tyler Hubbard then made a shoestring catch in right field to end the inning.
The Eagles never scored again.
“That kid made a great catch out in right field. I thought that ball was going to drop in for a hit,” Middletown Christian coach Ray Cox said. “And then Hamlin is thrown out at second on a really close play. I think those were two key plays in the game. If we get a hit there, and if Hamlin is in scoring position, who knows what could’ve happened? We’d have been right back in the game.
“But Austin pitched a terrific game against us, and their defense came up with the plays when they needed them. Things just didn’t go our way today.”
The game was delayed for nearly an hour due to lightning in the area. Before the game resumed, the umpires had said they would call the game if they saw more lightning. Their edict must’ve scared the clouds away, because it never stormed again.
Middletown Christian was the sectional tournament’s 11th seed, while Xenia Christian is the 12th seed. Originally intended to be played in Middletown on Monday, the game had been moved to Xenia on Tuesday due to a very wet field on the MCS campus. Cox said there was still standing water on the Eagles’ field, Tuesday, as they boarded the bus for Xenia.
The synthetic turf of Grady’s Field drains incredibly well. Despite two days of rain, the surface of the Xenia facility still felt dry to the touch.
“This turf is a blessing, it truly is. … This is a really special place. Grady’s Field soaks the water up like a sponge, so we have the luxury that we can watch the weather radar right up to the minute to determine whether we will play or not,” Johnson said.
Xenia Christian doesn’t have long to celebrate. They play at 5 p.m. today at third-seeded Pleasant Hill Newton, a team which is coached by Nathan Kopp.
That name might sound familiar: Kopp was named as the new Athletic Director at Xenia High School on Monday.
John Bombatch can be reached at 937-372-4444, Ext. 2123.