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Cougars bury Springfield 15-0 in sectional opener

The bats were blazing Tuesday, just in time for the most important stretch of Edgewood High School’s baseball season.

The Cougars began the Division I sectional tournament by uncorking a 12-run inning and demolishing Springfield 15-0, earning a sectional semifinal matchup at fourth-seeded Vandalia Butler on Thursday.

Adding to the week’s importance is Wednesday’s game at Harrison. If Edgewood (14-11) can beat the Wildcats and win at Northwest on Monday, it will share the Southwest Ohio Conference title with HHS and Ross.

“It’s been a good season,” second-year EHS coach Matt Root said. “We returned eight starters from last year’s team and felt really good coming in. We’ve hit some bumps in the road with a little bit of hitting and a little bit of confidence, but we’ve just been getting over that, and things have really been turning for us.

“We feel very good about these guys. We want to keep playing ball.”

Edgewood’s five-inning triumph over Springfield was competitive early. The Wildcats (8-18) stranded five runners in scoring position in their first three at-bats and trailed 1-0, then watched the hosts’ first 14 batters reach base in the bottom of the third.

The last four runs in that barrage came off the bat of senior right fielder Matt Barger, who launched a grand slam over the fence in left-center field.

“I’m really just swinging to hit the ball hard and do my job,” Barger said. “I felt off the bat that it was going to be a hard-hit ball. It just crawled over the fence.”

Barger also singled twice, reached base on an error, scored three runs and totaled six RBIs for the 10th-seeded Cougars. Keenan Carter, Tyler McDaniel and Austin Alexander also drove in two runs apiece.

“It was all a team thing,” Barger said. “We’ve been struggling recently at the plate, but if one person’s on, we’re all on.”

Said Root, “It’s nice not to stress in a game a little bit. We’ve had times this year where we couldn’t buy a hit when we needed one. It was great to see the kids having a little fun today and the seniors enjoying their last day together on this field.”

Zach Griffin struck out eight in four innings to pick up the win, combining with T.J. Cifuentes on a three-hitter. Riley Borders, the first of three hurlers for No. 17 seed SHS, took the loss.

“Riley’s our best, he’s been our best for three years, and they got to him,” Wildcats coach Rob Cassell said. “That says something. Some days you just have to tip your hat to the team in the other dugout. Edgewood showed up and hit the ball today.”

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