McKinion pitches Cedarville past Dayton Christian

Cedarville junior Caden McKinion held Dayton Christian to two hits and struck out seven Monday to lead the Indians to a 10-0 victory in a Division IV district semifinal. Jeff Gilbert/CONTRIBUTED
Cedarville junior Caden McKinion held Dayton Christian to two hits and struck out seven Monday to lead the Indians to a 10-0 victory in a Division IV district semifinal. Jeff Gilbert/CONTRIBUTED

Indians seeking first district title since 1997

TROY — Caden McKinion’s game plan: fastballs, changeups, curveballs. The first two he knew could throw for strikes. The curveball? Well, pitchers don’t always know if that pitch will behave.

But in a district semifinal Monday against top-seeded Dayton Christian, McKinion’s curveball was more than reliable.

“My curveball was the main thing that was happening today,” he said. “I threw that for mostly all strikes, which was big.”

McKinion, a junior, held the Warriors to two hits and a walk and struck out seven to lead the sixth-seeded and surging Indians to a 10-0 victory in five innings at Duke Park.

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“He was absolutely phenomenal,” Dayton Christian coach Doug Adams said. “He had that curveball, which kept us off balance. I thought we hit him pretty hard in the first inning – we just hit it at people. He made a little bit of adjustment, got it down a little more, and at that point we were just putty in his hands.”

Cedarville (18-12) has won three straight and 10 of its last 12 to put itself in position to win a district title for the first time since 1997 and a fifth overall. The Indians will face Cincinnati Christian, a 9-0 winner over New Miami, Wednesday at 5 p.m. at Lakota East High School.

“I told them early on if you guys all can contribute, we’re going to be tough to beat,” Indians coach Andy Pauling said. “And that’s what they did.”

Cedarville opened the season by making errors and walking batters to fall behind 7-0 and eventually lost to the Warriors (20-7) 11-10. This time the Warriors made errors, walked batters and gave up big hits.

McKinion’s laser over the right-fielder’s head for a double drove in two runs in the second inning for a 4-0 lead.

“It was definitely a game-changer,” said McKinion, a unanimous choice for Ohio Heritage Conference South player of the year. “It got everybody fired up even more.”

Caleb McKinion, a senior and the league player of the year in 2019, singled in his brother for a 5-0 lead. Mason Johnson added two run-scoring singles and Hunter Baldwin ripped an RBI double to left.

An unexpected boost came after second baseman and leadoff hitter Gunnar Gannon was hit in the mouth with a bad-hop grounder during infield practice. The ball didn’t knocked out his two bottom front teeth, but it did push them back.

“I was very peed off that thousands of dollars spent on my teeth was basically gone,” Gannon said quietly after the game through a swollen bottom lip with his mouth barely moving. “It was just like money thoughts, and I don’t want to get braces again. It was terrible.”

Pauling told Gannon he probably shouldn’t play. But Gannon shoved the teeth back into place, and said, “Coach, I’m playing. I’m not quitting. You can’t look back and wish it didn’t happen. So I toughed it up and went out.”

Gannon was in the middle of a couple rallies with two bunt singles, a walk and two runs scored.

“That’s what you call a baseball player,” Caden McKinion said. “He’s a real teammate, too. I’m real glad he played.”

Dayton Christian was without senior shortstop and No. 1 pitcher Ryan Edgerton, its top base stealer and one of its best hitters, because he was out of town. The Warriors were hoping to advance to a third straight district final with a chance to win their first one since 1970.

“We had kids playing out of position with the kid leaving, so we made six errors, five of them in the middle infield,” Adams said. “You’re not going to win a baseball game with five errors in the middle infield.”