Calvin Dibert didn't have to think long when he was asked if this was the most important start of his Kenton Ridge baseball career. Of course, it was. He's only a sophomore. This was a sectional final.
"It was a little nerve-wracking," Dibert said, "but once I got through the first inning, I was fine after that."
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Dibert gave up a run in the first inning and one in the seventh inning. In between, the top-seeded Cougars scored three runs in the second inning and then nine in the third to beat No. 2 seed Benjamin Logan 9-2, advancing to a Division II district championship.
Dibert struck out eight batters. He improved to 8-0, and the Cougars improved to 19-5. The key to his performance, Dibert said, "was just letting my defense work. Just throwing strikes the whole game."
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Kenton Ridge coach Aaron Shaffer praised Dibert's maturity.
"He doesn't show his age up there," Shaffer said. "He looks like a seasoned veteran. He doesn't get rattled in any situation."
Kenton Ridge, which won its second sectional title in a row after a five-year drought, will play Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy or Bishop Fenwick in the next round at 11 a.m. Saturday at Miamisburg High School. Those teams play at 5 p.m. Friday in Lebanon after their game was rained out Thursday.
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Senior Drew Wichael (3-1, 3.54 ERA) will get the start for Kenton Ridge in the district final. The Cougars seek their first regional semifinal berth since they reached the state semifinals in 2008, Shaffer's first season. They lost in the district final in 2009 (8-2 to Franklin), 2010 (13-4 to Franklin), 2011 (9-4 to Cincinnati McNicholas) and 2017 (10-8 to Waynesville).
"We're due to get over the hump," Shaffer said.
A victory would give Dibert a chance to start an even bigger game next week. He looked ready for the opportunity against Benjamin Logan.
"He was efficient today," Shaffer said. "I think he only pitched to more than four batters one time, and that was in the last inning. It was four or less every inning. He was around the plate. We played good defense. That's what we've done all year. When we've been good, our guys pound the zone, and we play good defense."
Kenton Ridge's offense did its part as well. Jordan Ward, Jaxon Wright and Quinton Roach drove in runs in the second inning.
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An inning later, a single by Bailey Armentrout started a six-run rally. A single by Zach Schneider brought in the first run. Matt Tateman walked with the bases loaded to bring in the second run. A single by Ward scored two runs. A single by Roach scored the final two runs.
Kenton Ridge did all that without recording an out.
"That third inning was big," Shaffer said. "We were able to string a few hits together, get their starter out of the game and get into their bullpen. We just had guys with great at-bats. We were putting the ball in play. We put a little pressure on them. Before you know it, you look up, and we've got four, five, six runs. We competed at the plate."