High School Baseball: Shawnee two wins from D-III state berth

Shawnee High School senior Nick Whalen throws a pitch during their game against Northeastern High School on Monday, May 24 at Fairborn's George Winkhouse Stadium. Whalen threw a complete game as the Braves beat the Jets 9-1. Michael Cooper/CONTRIBUTED
Shawnee High School senior Nick Whalen throws a pitch during their game against Northeastern High School on Monday, May 24 at Fairborn's George Winkhouse Stadium. Whalen threw a complete game as the Braves beat the Jets 9-1. Michael Cooper/CONTRIBUTED

Credit: Name Test

Credit: Name Test

SPRINGFIELD — The Shawnee High School baseball team is two wins away from the Division III state tournament.

The Braves (18-10) will play Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy (19-8) in a D-III regional semifinal game at 2 p.m. Thursday at Wright State University’s Nischwitz Stadium.

Shawnee advanced to the regionals after beating Cincinnati Summit Country Day 4-1 on May 27 to win its first D-III district title since 2013.

“It’s good for the program and for the community,” said Braves coach Mark Armstrong. “We started off 1-4 against some really good teams. I think a lot of people were wondering what we were going to look like and what we were going to get out of them since we didn’t play last year. I was really excited for this year and the team’s expectation was to get to that district game and from there focus on the big picture. I think it puts everybody into the mindset that we focus on one goal and things can happen if we do things the right way.”

The Braves are led by a strong group of seven seniors who’ve played in big games since their sophomore year. Six seniors — Matt Fowler, Luke Myers, Rudy Scanlon, Zac Spitzer, Nick Whalen and Caleb Woodland — all saw playing time two years ago as sophomores, while senior Drew Mitch returned to the program after playing as a freshman.

Several members of the team also played key roles on the Braves football and basketball teams which also advanced to the regional finals. Braves junior shortstop Patrick Fultz, the Central Buckeye Conference Kenton Trail Division Player of the Year, is also a two-year starter.

“They don’t let anything get to them,” Armstrong said. “Honestly, they’re treating this as another baseball game. Whether it’s the first game of the season or the last game of the season, they kind of walk around like they’ve been there, done that. They’re not by any means cocky, but nothing phases them and that’s where the experience of being in regional games and playoff games in other sports comes into play.”

Shawnee’s senior class has also shown the younger players what it takes to be a winning program, Armstrong said.

“They’ve really taken the reins of moving this program into the direction that everybody wants it to go,” he said. “They’re the ones in charge of setting that new standard and I think that’s going to be passed on to next year and the year after. That’s what I really want the senior class to be known as.”

Cincinnati Country Day will play Cincinnati McNicholas in the other regional semifinal game at 5 p.m. at Wright State. The winner of those games will play at 5 p.m. Friday at Wright State with a state berth on the line.

The Braves have been led by their senior pitching duo of Whalen and Myers, who’ve combined for 11 wins this season.

Whalen tossed a complete game in a 9-1 victory over Northeastern in the district semifinals, while Myers tossed a complete game 1-hitter in the victory over Summit Country Day.

Whalen is expected to get the start on Thursday.

“They’ve been workhorses,” Armstrong said. “They’ve been good role models for the younger kids.”

The key to advancing to Friday’s regional final will be manufacturing runs, Armstrong said.

“(CHCA) is going to put the ball in play and they’re not going to make mistakes,” he said. “We’ve got to make them move, We’ve got to steal and take as many bags as possible. Luckily for us, we’ve had some timely hits. If we do that, we’ll be alright. Our pitching and our defense has always been there.”

In Other News