Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Another new regional semi opponent for Russia

The Raiders district championship last week extended their winning streak to 13 games and their streak of run rule victories to four (Picture by Amy Spradlin)

Russia Baseball (25-4) is back in familiar territory at the regional tournament for the seventh consecutive year. For the fifth straight year Raider fans will be mostly unfamiliar with their semifinal opponent. This Thursday at Princeton High School in Cincinnati that opponent is Northmor, a public school 55 miles north of Columbus and located in Galion, a city in Crawford, Morrow and Richland counties. In case you were wondering about those other semifinal matchups for Russia in previous seasons; In 2023 it was Berne Union, 2022 Southeastern, 2021 Fisher Catholic, 2019 and 2018 Cincinnati Christian, and 2017 Ft. Loramie.

Senior Grant Bentley (Picture by Don Tudor)
Northmor (23-7) got over a proverbial hump last Wednesday after loses in the district finals the previous two years. The Golden Knights won just their second district championship in school history, the other coming in 1995 when they advanced all the way to the Division IV state tournament. Head coach Buck Workman took over the program in 2001 and has accumulated 292 wins during that time. One big reason for his success this postseason is a trio of pitchers in senior starters Grant Bentley and Drew Hammond, along with sophomore reliever Trevor Brubaker. Bentley was recognized recently as the Knox Morrow Athletic Conference Player of the Year. He received the same conference award in basketball this past March while totaling 1,420 points during his playing career. Hammond has plenty of athletic talent too, and will take his baseball talent to the University of Findlay in the fall to continue his career on the diamond. Brubaker made an impressive freshman debut last year with a 4-3 record and 1.11 earned run average. There's been no sophomore jinx either, as his win-loss record this year is tops on the team at 8-1 with a 1.13 ERA. Bentley is 5-1 with a 1.01 ERA and Hammond is 6-2 with a 1.93 ERA. Northmor wrapped up their regular season schedule this past Tuesday, dropping a meaningless 5-4 tune-up game to D-II regional qualifier Clear Fork. Hammond and Brubaker were among the six pitchers used in limited action by the Golden Knights. The one pitcher that didn't appear was Bentley, making him a likely candidate to start against Russia. 

Much like Northmor, Russia head coach Kevin Phlipot (198 wins in nine seasons) has a plethora of multisport athletes making history with their athletic achievements as well. Near the top of that list is ace pitcher and junior Braylon Cordonnier. The Marshall University commit recently garnered back-to-back Shelby County Athletic League Player of the Year awards and has already been to five state tournaments combined in baseball, basketball and golf. Senior Hayden Quinter was named SCAL Player of the Year in basketball this past winter and this Thursday will aim for his 97th career win in baseball since stepping on the field as a freshman. Sharing those 97 wins is senior teammate Brayden Monnin, who was a key member of five state tournaments combined in baseball, basketball and cross country. Then there's senior Felix Francis who's been to five state tournaments himself in baseball, basketball and golf. Francis is also quietly having one of the best years in Russia baseball history, already breaking single season school records for runs scored and stolen bases, while currently being tied for single season triples and only six hits shy of matching the single season hits record. All four of the above mentioned Raiders were selected as 1st-Team All-SCAL honorees a couple weeks ago.

Our Fish Report projected starting line-up for Northmor versus Russia

If you're a Russia fan heading to the game, sources tell us the parking lot pep rally starts between 2:00-2:30 for first pitch at 5:00. If you're a Northmor fan reading this, Raider fans want you to know they're the friendliest tailgaters on the planet. For easiest entrance to the stadium, purchase your tickets online at Ticket-takers will accept cash at the gate if necessary. For folks who can't make the trip, you can listen live on or 97.5FM. Both stations will also be broadcasting the 2:00 regional semifinal between Bradford and Troy Christian. There's a YouTube channel streaming the action as well at the following link. Stadium workers do not intend to clear the park between games, but will request that fans attending the first game leave seating space to allow the second game fans open seats. Only if necessary will they clear the stands and ask those in attendance to leave the park and purchase a new ticket for admission. Lastly, fans might like to know that state-ranked #3 Northmor will be the home team occupying the 1st-base dugout, while #4 Russia will be the visitors in the 3rd-base dugout. The winner will be the home team on Friday for a 5:00 finale versus the visitors from either unranked Bradford or Troy Christian.

A classy Russia program gave Fish Report an extra district championship medal last week for our season long coverage of Raider Baseball

Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Two SCAL and two WOAC teams in D-IV district finals

Russia's Hayden Quinter and his senior classmates will be playing for a berth to their fourth consecutive regional tournament (Picture by Luke Gronneberg | Sidney Daily News)

Just six baseball teams are still alive in the Division IV Southwest District. After the dust settles Wednesday evening, only three of the six will advance to next week's regional tournament. Joining them will be the winner of Wednesday's Central District finale between state-ranked #3 Northmor and #17 Fairfield Christian. The following is our preview of the three games that include teams from the Shelby County Athletic League and Western Ohio Athletic Conference.

The Division IV Southwest Region courtesy of MaxPreps Ohio

Russia (24-4) vs Felicity-Franklin (7-12)
This game will be broadcast by Fish Report from Miamisburg High School with airtime at 4:50 and first pitch at 5:00. Russia is state-ranked #4 and Felicity-Franklin is unranked. The Raider's tournament trail so far has included two wins in run-rule fashion against teams from the Western Ohio Athletic Conference. Most recent was Monday's victory versus Twin Valley South 13-3 in six innings. Over half of Russia's 10 hits in that semifinal came from batters #2 through #4 in the lineup. Junior Braylon Cordonnier led with three hits and continues to be an opposing pitcher's nightmare. In his first plate appearance, the left-hand swinger sparked the scoring by driving an outside strike down the opposite field line for a RBI double. Senior Hayden Quinter, who earlier this season became Russia's all-time career hits leader, used his first at-bat to single in the Raider's second run of the game. Finally, senior Brayden Monnin extended his hitting streak to 12 games with two more knocks on Monday. One of those knocks was a two-run homer to left field, which was his second dinger of the season. Perhaps the most exciting hits for Raider fans though, are the ones coming from the bottom of the lineup. During the team's current 12-game win streak, Coach Kevin Phlipot has consistently gotten production from the #6 through #9 batters, and on Monday it was senior Ben Rinderle leading the way with two hits.

Felicity-Franklin comes into the district final as an obvious underdog and that's likely fine with head coach Donnie Hall. The Cardinals advanced to this same round last season before bowing out against Southeastern. Their seven wins total might not impress anyone, but their four wins in the month of May should. The most impressive of those wins was Monday in a 13-3 run-rule upset of Fayetteville-Perry. Junior Grady Jowers earned the complete game victory, pitching six innings, allowing three earned runs, just one walk, and striking out nine batters. The Cardinal's team tallied a mammoth 15 hits, as every player in the lineup except one recorded a safety. Cleanup batter and junior Logan Harless led the hit parade with two doubles, a single and three RBI. Jowers statistics at the plate included a double and three RBI. Also, while Jowers is Felicity-Franklin's top pitcher, he won't be available on Wednesday due to OHSAA pitch count rules. We expect Harless or possibly sophomore Lane McElfresh to take the mound for the home team and oppose Russia's ace Braylon Cordonnier.

Tucker Miller has done it all for Bradford this season on the mound and at the plate (Picture by Dale Barger |

Bradford (18-9) vs Newton (23-6)
A rematch of two Western Ohio Athletic Conference teams takes place at Hardin-Houston Local School on Wednesday at 5:00. Rewind to April 26th when Bradford hosted Newton and the Railroaders won 8-4. At the time it was a big conference game that left both teams with 5-1 records in the WOAC. In the final standings however, Newton finished tied for 2nd-place and Bradford 4th. That's all history now, but it's worth noting Bradford threw senior ace Tucker Miller that day and Newton went with a young combination of starting freshman Cole Alexander and sophomore reliever Austin Tippie. At Monday's district semifinal, Miller threw five innings in a 10-5 win over Cedarville, which expectedly makes him unable to pitch on Wednesday and likely means head coach Derrick Skinner will go with senior Landon Wills. State-ranked #10 Newton topped Tri-County North on Monday 10-4 and started Tippie, while also getting relief work from Alexander and their ace of the staff, senior Ty Schauer. Reportedly, Indians head coach Jordan Kopp kept Schauer under 50 pitches, making him available to go in the finals.

Regardless of pitchers, this game should be a good-ole fashioned showdown between two local rivals. Miller leads Bradford (and maybe Ohio) at the plate with an eye-popping .600 batting average. He's racked up 54 hits in 90 at-bats, including 10 doubles and four homeruns. Senior teammates Garrett Trevino, Wills and Trey Schmelzer are pretty good too, all hovering around the .400 mark. Newton can swing the bats for average too with Alexander and Tippie leading the way at .375 and .338 respectively. The Indians will be the home team in this one and we expect fans from both communities to show up in full force.

Ft. Loramie (21-6) vs Troy Christian (9-15)
State-ranked #8 Ft. Loramie already won two games earlier this year at the site of the district final on Wednesday in Versailles. The Redskins swept Van Wert and hometown Versailles at the Zac Richard Classic back on April 13th. Head coach Jeff Sanders, a MVBCA Co-Coach of the Year, also assembled one of the toughest regular season schedules in the area. That might explain Ft. Loramie's success in postseason, topping Catholic Central 7-1 and Covington 5-1. In the district semifinal game on Monday, All-SCAL honorees Roger Hoying and Will Hoying, made the most of their six plate appearances. Combined, the seniors reached base five times and knocked in three runs. Additionally, it's no surprise leadoff batter Mavrick Grudich led the team with two of Ft. Loramie's seven hits and had his own RBI. Speaking of the senior Grudich, he's the Redskins ace pitcher as well and spent Monday playing shortstop. Junior Gabe Hart took the mound and was brilliant with seven innings pitched, the one run being unearned, five hits, one walk and eight strikeouts. We expect Grudich on the hill to face Troy Christian.

The Eagles had a respectable record of 7-7 at the end of April, but May was absolutely brutal for head coach Tony Ferraro's program. Troy Christian lost their final eight regular season games. All that matters at the present though, is the #11-seed Eagles two tournament wins over #8-seed Lehman 7-6 and #5-seed Southeastern on Monday 4-0. That blanking of Southeastern was especially impressive considering the Trojans were a regional finalist last year. Leading Troy Christian at the plate all season has been cleanup batter Camden Koukol. The senior is the second-best hitter in the entire Three Rivers Conference with a .452 average. Also, keep your eye on junior Judah Simmons with a .352 average. Simmons is the ace of the pitching staff as well, but threw all seven innings on Monday. That means the Eagles will have to decide between seniors Carson Dyer or Andrew Knostman to start.

Happy Wednesday baseball fans.

Two SCAL rivals on another possible collision course?

Monday, May 20, 2024

District Baseball Preview

The 2024 SCAL champions after last Thursday's win at Botkins

OHSAA district baseball tournaments begin on Monday with the higher seeded teams hosting their opponent in the semifinals. For Southwest Division IV fans, 12 teams are battling for three spots to the southwest regional tournament next Thursday at Princeton High School in Cincinnati. Joining them at the regional will be one winner from four teams playing in the central district. Below is the entire brackets for all 16 teams courtesy of MaxPreps. We'll preview the top half of the bracket to start the week.

Northmor vs Mechanicsburg (Central District)
Top seeded Northmor (21-5) is located in Galion, about a hour north of Columbus. The Golden Knights are also state-ranked #3 in today's latest coaches poll. Northmor advanced to the district tournament by winning their sectional final over #12-seed Madison Christian 1-0. Pitcher Drew Hammond led his team with six innings pitched, allowing just one hit, four walks and struck out 10 batters. He also doubled and scored the game's only run in the bottom of the 6th inning off a Jack Bowdre RBI single. Relief pitcher Trevor Brubaker got the save after striking out the side in the 7th inning.

Mechanicsburg (19-5) is a #4-seed and state-ranked #11. Their school is located 30 minutes west of Columbus and will make the long drive to Morrow County for today's semifinal. The Indians topped #14-seed Ridgedale last Tuesday 12-0 in five innings. The eighth batter in the order, Connor Shultz, had three of his team's eight hits. Pitcher Lane Poland got the complete game victory allowing one hit, four walks and struck out five batters. Poland also knocked in his team's first run and finished with two RBI.

Fairfield Christian vs Elgin (Central District)
Fairfield (20-7), located in Lancaster, is the #2-seed and state-ranked #17. The Knights topped #10-seed Shekinah Christian 2-0. Both runs in that sectional championship last Thursday came in the bottom of the 6th inning when sophomore Brayden Stem drilled a two-run double to centerfield. Sophomore pitcher A.J. Holbrook went all seven innings and allowed only three hits with no walks and nine strikeouts. Fairfield was ousted in last year's district semifinals by Northmor and finished with a 20-5 record.

Elgin (15-8) is the #5-seed from Marion and will have a 90 minute bus ride to legendary Beavers Field in Lancaster. The Comets knocked off #3-seed Berne Union last Thurday 5-2. Elgin got the scoring started in the second inning when Trey Morgan hit a bases loaded double to score three runs. Teammate Nash Lust had three of his team's nine hits and Brody Wood had two hits including a RBI triple. Starting pitcher Stephen Castillo-Carey went 6-2/3 allowing two runs on ten hits and four walks with two strikeouts. In the bottom of the 7th inning, Berne Union scored their final run and loaded the bases with two outs. The Comets responded by sending Wood to the mound and he struck out the final batter for the save.

Felicity-Franklin vs Fayetteville-Perry (Southwest District)
#3-seed Felicity-Franklin (6-12) is located east of Cincinnati and will make a 30 minute trip north to play #2-seed Fayetteville-Perry (8-17). Felicity-Franklin upset #1-seed St. Bernard last Wednesday 8-6. There was all kinds of excitement for the Cardinals, including a steal of home by Jona Carnahan and a triple play 6-4-3-2 in the 6th inning. St. Bernard had the bases loaded in the bottom of the 7th when relieve pitcher Lane McElfresh struck out the final batter. Starting pitcher Grady Jowers went six innings and gave up just two earned runs on three hits and four walks with five stikeouts. Felicity-Franklin used six hits, five walks and four hit batters in the victory. 

Fayetteville-Perry run ruled #5-seed Ripley-Union-Lewis-Huntington 11-0 in five innings. Senior Clay Holden led the Rockets with two hits, including a double and three RBI. Junior Caleb Fehring also had two hits and recorded two of his team's six stolen bases. Junior pitcher A.J. Roy and Braedyn Crone combined on the pitcher's mound for three hits, six walks and 10 strikeouts.

Russia vs Twin Valley South (Southwest District)
#1-seed Russia (23-4) hosts #23-seed Twin Valley South (5-12). The Raiders are state-ranked #4 and run ruled #24-seed Triad last Wednesday 10-0 in five innings. Russia also played the following day in their final regular season game and wrapped up the Shelby County Athletic League with a perfect 12-0 record. When the Miami Valley Baseball Coaches Association All-Area Awards came out over the weekend, junior Braylon Cordonnier was named Player of the Year. Cordonnier was joined on the list by senior teammates Felix Francis, Jude Counts, Hayden Quinter and Brayden Monnin, along with Co-Coach of the Year, Kevin Phlipot.

Twin Valley South is hot when it counts, winning four of their last five games. The Panthers most recently thumped #16-seed Fairlawn 14-1 in five innings last Wednesday. Freshman clean-up batter Dustin Miller was the spark plug going 3-for-3 with a double, four RBI, and two stolen bases. Miller also pitched a complete game scattering six hits and five walks with four strikeouts. Senior Cais Kingsley had a couple hits and two stolen bases as well. The Panther's team stole a whopping nine bases in the game.

In 2023, #2-seed Russia survived an upset from #3 Newton in the District Semis