WILL SHILLING / ALIVE Enlarge
COLUMBUS - Patrick Henry started aggressively and stayed that way throughout yesterday's Division IV state baseball semifinal.
The payoff for the top-ranked Patriots (27-3) was a convincing 9-2 victory over defending D-IV champion Fort Loramie at Cooper Stadium, and a spot in the title game here at 7 tonight.
The hot-hitting Pats lived up to their lofty .386 team batting average, banging out 12 hits in 31 at-bats (.387 for game), led by the 3-for-4 effort of senior third baseman Kyle Reese, who entered hitting .457 for the season.
They tallied two unearned runs in the bottom of the first inning, and added two more on three hits in the third to stake senior ace Zach Botjer to a 4-0 lead.
Botjer (12-1), who did not have his best command, battled through 92-degree heat to throw 131 pitches in his complete-game four-hitter against the Redskins (21-12).
"It was one of those days where he had to play the role of Houdini," PH coach Greg Inselmann said of Botjer. "He wiggled off the hook enough times there, and I thought he had a gutty performance. He made pitches when he had to, and we made some defensive plays when we had to have them.
"We were hoping he would conserve a few pitches but it didn't happen that way. But he kept feeling good, he's a well-conditioned athlete and, at this time of the year, he didn't want to come out."
Botjer worked through four scoreless innings on 72 pitches before yielding his only two runs in the fifth on two singles and two walks.
"The control wasn't there for me, and there was a tighter zone with a bigger [game] and a better umpire," Botjer said. "But, we had to adjust. The defense played great and the offense was awesome. It was a lot easier for me when we scored those couple runs right at the beginning."
PH answered the Redskins' small uprising with three runs on four hits in the bottom of the fifth for a 7-2 lead.
"We put the hit-and-run on a little bit and that worked out for us," Inselmann said. "We've got some guys with pretty good bat control, and our bunt game really came in big today. That kind of takes the starch out of a team when you can execute like that."
Mitch Leonard's leadoff walk was followed by singles from Luke George (2-for-3), Reese (3-for-4) and Chris Boyer (2-for-4, 3 RBI) before first baseman Austin Bower delivered the big hit, a two-run double to center.
It was Bower's first hit in his first game back after fracturing his arm.
PH added two insurance runs in the sixth with Greg Bergstedt, Leonard and Reese all singling. Bergstedt scored on Reese's liner to center, and Leonard came home on a wild pitch by Fort Loramie pitcher Andy Long (9-3).
"We really sat on our pitches and waited for strikes," Reese said. "The ump had a tight strike zone and, when he [Long] brought it there, some of our hitters were stroking it today.
"Zach was unbelievable. He's amazing. He's been our ace all year and we expected that out of him."
Bergstedt closed the game with a terrific over-the-shoulder diving catch in deep left on a ball hit by Redskin DH Jay Schulze.
The trip to a state final will be the second for Inselmann, who guided Defiance to a Division I state championship in 1992. He was 303-85 in 18 seasons at Defiance and is 201-48 in his ninth year at PH. The Pats lost in the D-III state semis in 2002.
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