Deel’s one-hitter lifts Kenton Ridge baseball to district final

SPRINGFIELD — Kenton Ridge High School junior Zach Deel “definitely” didn’t have his best stuff.

But it was more than enough to lift the Cougars to a Division II district final game for the second straight season.

Kenton Ridge beat Central Buckeye Conference rival Bellefontaine for the third time this season, downing the Chieftains 10-0 in five innings in a D-II district semifinal game on Tuesday evening at Tom Randall Field.

Deel, a right-hander, was dominant from the start, allowing one hit in five innings with one walk.

“I just had trust in my defense and pitched to contact,” Deel said. “I’m super proud of my team today.”

Senior Logan Fyffe went 2-for-3 with a double, junior Jake Beard went 2-for-4 with two RBIs and senior Miles Miesse went 2-for-2 as Kenton Ridge won its seventh straight game. Senior Caleb Obee had three RBIs and senior Brayden Grumm added two RBIs.

The top-seeded Cougars (21-5) advanced to play Chaminade Julienne in a D-II district final game at 5 p.m. Thursday at Arcanum High School. The No. 3 seed Eagles beat Bethel 6-3 to advance to the state’s round of 32.

“It’s not easy to get here,” KR coach Aaron Shaffer said. “Tournament play is a whole different ball game. You know you’re going to be in tight games, you’ve got to execute, you’ve got to throw strikes, you’ve got to do the little things.”

Fyffe doubled in the first inning and moved to third base on a bunt by sophomore Mason Amato. He later scored on an error to give the Cougars an early 1-0 lead.

Kenton Ridge broke the game wide open in the second inning. Miesse walked and Bryce Smith reached on a dropped third strike. Cougars junior Nathan Cox, Fyffe and Amato each walked to make it 3-0. Obee then grounded into a fielder’s choice, scoring Cox from third base to make it 4-0. A single by Beard, a double by Grimm and a single by Miesse made it 8-0 before the Chieftains could get the final out of the inning.

“Our mentality was just to scratch a run early and we did that,” Shaffer said. “We just talk about adding on every inning. The second inning snowballed a little bit. We were able to get some baserunners and get some big hits and before you know it, you look up at the scoreboard and we got six or seven runs. That’s always nice and it doesn’t always happen that way.”

Deel allowed a single to Bellefontaine senior Zane Tevis in the second inning on a pitch he called “just a middle-middle fastball.”

“I just left it down the middle,” Deel said.

In the third inning, Deel hit two batters and walked another to load the bases. He was able to force a pop out to end the Chieftains threat. The junior wasn’t able to command his breaking ball, Shaffer said, but gained confidence as the Cougars were able to keep scoring runs.

“He struggled with that but he kept grinding,” Shaffer said. “He was able to do just enough. They had some chances there with baserunners. A lot of times the tournament is about hitting with runners on base and he was able to get out of those tight jams and that helped build momentum for us.”

The Cougars added another run in the third on a single by Obee. In the fifth inning, Fyffe singled and advanced to second on an error. He stole third base and scored on a single by Beard to win the game via run rule. Bellefontaine finished its season 14-11.

The Cougars have won 20 games four times in the past five seasons. They’re seeking their first regional semifinal appearance since 2008.

“We’re not going to back down,” Deel said. “We want districts. We want to play for state.”

Last year, the Cougars lost to Hamilton Badin 10-0 in a D-II district final, but were missing four starters due to injuries. With a healthier squad this spring, the Cougars are hungry to make a deep postseason run, Shaffer said.

“We have to be locked in and ready to be in those close games,” he said. “You can’t be afraid to play from behind. You just survive and advance.”

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