While Apollo got off to a hot start, an offensive eruption halfway through the ballgame helped Ohio County secure a 6-5 win and move on to the 3rd Region Semifinals on Sunday.
It was the Eagles who got on the board first on Sunday, with junior Aiden Wells driving in senior Nick Judd following his two-out walk and steal to take a 1-0 lead in the top of the first. Judd took that momentum to the mound in the bottom half of the inning, getting three straight strikeouts to carry their lead into the second.
He stayed hot after a scoreless top of the second, striking out the side again to send Apollo into the third up 1-0. The Eagles then used some trickery on the basepaths to add another run to their lead.
Bowman went to steal second with runners on the corners and when junior Carter Contratto made a beeline for home, the throw was cut off for a play at the plate and it wasn’t caught. Contratto slid in safely to make it 2-0, while Bowman got his 70th steal to make him the all-time stolen bases leader at Apollo.
Judd had remained virtually untouched in the third as well, getting his seventh strikeout and not allowing a single hit through three. But Ohio County got an infield single from junior Matthew Smith and got a rally going to start the bottom of the fourth.
Smith then stole second and third, but sophomore Easton Blandford went to cover third on the attempt and junior Jaylen Walker placed a bunt single down the third-base line to put runners on the corners with no outs. Shortly after, senior Clayton Goff was walked to load the bases.
Judd’s second walk of the day followed, allowing Ohio County to get its first run of the game. A passed ball the following at-bat allowed a run to score to knot things up at 2-2, before they intentionally walked junior Ashten Farris to load the bases again.
Junior Derek Bradley then perfectly executed a safety squeeze, putting Ohio County ahead 3-2 with one out and runners in scoring position. Judd sat down Hoskins the following at-bat for his eighth strikeout of the day, but sophomore Graydon Barnard singled to center shortly after to give Ohio County a 5-2 lead.
Apollo responded well though, finding themselves with runners in scoring position after a pair of doubles early in the fifth. Bowman then sent one to left for a sacrifice fly, but they tried to get Cook at second on the throw back in.
It sailed, allowing Cook to make it all the way home and slide in safely to cut the Eagles deficit to 5-4 going into the bottom of the fifth. While Ohio County wasn’t able to get anything in the fifth, they were able to add onto their lead in the bottom of the sixth.
A leadoff single and a two-out walk had runners on the corners for Ohio County and then sophomore Will Strode made a pickoff attempt at first. They were able to get the runner at first, but not before Goff crossed home to take a 6-4 lead into the seventh.
Apollo wasn’t going away though, getting back-to-back singles to start the top of the seventh. Cook bunted one back at the pitcher the following at-bat, but the third baseman didn’t cover the base correctly and what would’ve turned out to be a nice play by Farris left the bases loaded for Bowman with one out.
Bowman would pop one up to short right field where Smith would catch it and throw it home trying to get the runner at the plate. Freshman Garrett Lanham—who entered the game as a courtesy runner for Strode—scored safely, but Holder attempted to advance to third on the play.
The throw to third was on the money, but Holder was in safely—until he overran the base. He was tagged and ruled out at third, thus making for a wild ending to a 6-5 first round loss for Apollo.
After such a rough start to the game for Ohio County, it was an infield single that sparked the comeback and Head Coach Ben Everley said that sometimes it’s something small that can start a shift in momentum.
“Baseball is a funny game,” Everley said. “Sometimes all it takes is just somebody, somebody to do something and things get contagious. I thought we kept putting pressure on them with the bunts and different things but really, our pitcher kept battling. He didn’t let that [adversity] affect him.”
Barnard led the way at the plate for Ohio County with two RBIs, while Gregory and Bradley had one each. Farris battled through adversity throughout the game and Everley said it was his team’s experience that showed late to grab the win.
“The majority of these kids played last year and when I say played, I mean they played big varsity innings…” Everley said. “I saw some heads drop a little bit just because we couldn’t put the bat on the ball, but never to the point that I was concerned. I felt like `we’re gonna make a run, but is it going to be big enough?”
Apollo Head Coach Mason Head also complimented Farris on his performance, as the junior allowed four earned runs on nine hits, while walking one walk and striking out six in seven innings.
“Tip your cap to Farris, coach Everley,” Head said. “Ohio County played a good game. They stuck to their gameplan, they executed well and Farris threw a tremendous game. As he has every single time I’ve seen him for the past three years. He’s a good pitcher.”
After Judd’s strong start, he closed out his start having given up five earned runs on three hits, while walking three and striking out eight. Payne handled an inning and a third out of the bullpen, allowing one earned run on one hit while striking out one, while Strode pitched two-thirds of an inning nearly untouched outside of a walk.
At the plate it was Bowman who led the way with a pair of RBIs while cementing himself in the Eagles history books one more time, while Wells followed with one RBI. Despite the struggles they faced in the game, Head believed they would fight and was proud of his team’s efforts.
“We’ve been behind a few times this year and we’ve always fought back and we fought back today,” Head said. “Just fell short of the mark. I always like my guys’ chances, it doesn’t matter what the score is.”
Apollo’s season came to an end in the first round of the third region tournament, owning a 20-14 overall record. But before the 2022 campaign came to a close for the Eagles, Head made sure to compliment his seniors and make sure they knew they were appreciated for all they’ve contributed to the program.
“Harrison’s offensive production speaks for itself,” Head said. “Dayton’s had a tremendous senior year. He was behind a giant in Dan St. Clair for three years… When he got the chance to play he hit .400. I think Judd’s been invaluable to our program’s success for five years. Just always has been ‘Mr. Reliable’ for us. Then Tyler Payne, despite not getting a whole lot of playing time, is probably one of the best leaders we have in our program and that I have had in our five years here… They’ll all four be successful in their various walks of life and I’m really looking forward to seeing what’s next for them and getting to be apart of their lives in whatever capacity that looks like.”