Perrysburg's Mark Badenhop is safe when St. Xavier third baseman Patrick O'Donnell can't come up with the throw. Later, O'Donnell's defense spelled doom for the Jackets.
COLUMBUS - Down San Antonio way in Texas they say “Remember the Alamo,” because of the infamous attack there in 1836.
After yesterday's 4-1 loss to Cincinnati St. Xavier in the Division I state baseball semifinals at Cooper Stadium, the Perrysburg Yellow Jackets and coach Dave Hall may well be saying “forget Bubba O'Donnell.”
That's because, despite his two early errors in the field, the Bombers' third baseman made four big defensive plays that left the 23-8 Jackets wondering “what if?”
“That's not only me, that's the team,” O'Donnell said “We've been playing good defense all year, and getting good pitching. Luckily I was able to make a play or two today. Nothing major. I was just lucky the ball was hit at me.”
The 5-10 junior, formally known as Patrick, had already tripled to left-center and scored what proved to be St. Xavier's winning run in the second inning, then added a single in the third, before he began to steal the show, along with Perrysburg's potential thunder, in the fourth.
First came a diving stab to his left on a hot grounder by Jacket catcher Mark Badenhop, who was nipped at first by a strong throw.
Next he ranged to his left to grab Matt Kuhl's grounder leading off the fifth and made another strong throw for an out.
O'Donnell then ended that inning - after consecutive one-out singles by Brent Register and Steve Calevro - with perhaps the game's pivotal play.
On the first pitch from St. Xavier starter and winner Nick Ornella (8-2), Perrysburg left fielder Marc St. John ripped a hard liner to O'Donnell, who doubled Register off second for the third out.
Left stranded in the on-deck circle was Yellow Jacket slugger Kurt Wells along with his .510 batting average, eight home runs, school-record 41 RBIs and Perrsburg's potential for a big inning.
“There were runners that probably would have scored,” St. John said of his ill-fated drive, “and then Wells would have been up. I'm sure he would've brought us in. That could have brought the game within a run or so, so that kind of demoralized us.”
“[O'Donnell] probably gobbled up at least four or five runs,” Hall said. “We hit the ball as hard as we've hit the ball [all year]. Kurt Wells hit two shots where playing on a bigger field hurt us, and that line drive down the line. If that gets by, anything can happen.”
Finally - after Jacket DH Evan Calvin singled with one out in the sixth and moved to second on a throwing error - Badenhop fought off an inside 3-2 pitch and smacked a sharp grounder over third base.
O'Donnell ranged right to glove it, retired Badenhop at first, and pinch-runner Matt Hoelter was caught in a rundown to end the inning.
“He's done it all year,” Bombers coach Bill Slinger said of O'Donnell. “None of us were surprised, because he's made plays. But I don't know if he's made four in one game like that.
“If you watched Perrysburg, they were just demoralized. They hit the ball hard and the kid picks it up and throws you out. An inning later you hit it hard and he turns it into a double play. It meant a heck of a lot to us, but it also put those guys down. Defense won that game.”
St. Xavier (23-9) has won 13 straight games by an average score of 10-5.
“Our kids played with composure,” Hall said. “They could've rolled over after those first two innings, but Adam [Gumpf] came in and calmed us down and worked out of some jams. They were just a better ballclub today.”
Perrysburg's only run came in the seventh. Dusty Baughman drew a leadoff walk, and one out later moved to second on a Kuhl single. With two outs, Calevro scored Baughman on a bloop double to left.
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