HAMLER - Opportunity didn't knock in the Division IV baseball regional final Saturday- it presented itself in a variety of other forms - a wild pitch, a passed ball, a base left uncovered, an errant throw, or a runner caught stealing. They were all part of the script as Patrick Henry took an 8-4 win over Toledo Christian.
"That's really an important part of our success - if the other team makes a mistake, we always seem to find a way to capitalize on their errors and get some runs in," Patrick Henry first baseman Austin Bower said. "We've been getting the clutch hitting, and then combining it with taking advantage of any extra chances we get."
The Patriots (23-4), the defending state champions in D-IV, trailed 4-2 entering the fifth inning but used some out-of-character mistakes by the Eagles to score six times over the next two innings to take control of the game. Patrick Henry starter Brian Kline went the distance and allowed just four base-runners over the final three innings.
Toledo Christian coach Ron Rightnowar said the blips in his team's performance were instrumental in its downfall in the school's first trip to a regional championship game.
"You can't play that way defensively against that team, or any team - it doesn't matter," Rightnowar said. "And you certainly can't do that, not at this stage of the tournament, like we did today. We gave them way too many extra outs."
The Patriots, playing as the visitors even though the game was played at their home Garrold Parratt Field, opened the first with a triple by Mitch Leonard, a sacrifice fly that brought Leonard home, a single by Chris Boyer, and an opposite field hit by Tyler Phillips that scored Boyer, who had advanced when a pitch got by the catcher.
TC went to work on that 2-0 deficit in the second with a walk, a single, and a Patriot error that scored Parker Brown, and then Nick Rightnowar's bloop single scored Anthony Dodd to tie the game. Eagles starter Jake Rightnowar put the side down in order in the third and allowed just an infield single in the fourth.
In the bottom of the fourth, TC used a walk, a drive off the wall in right center for a double by JC Miller that scored Bradshaw Zeh, and then a wild pitch and an errant throw in the infield to bring Miller home for a 4-2 advantage.
Patrick Henry responded with a four-run outburst in the fifth, with two runs scoring on Bower's hard single to right field, and two more on pitches that ended up against the screen. The Patriots made it an 8-4 lead in the sixth when Leonard reached on an error, Luke George doubled over the left-fielder's head, and Phillips singled to score George.
"That's been one of our main characteristics here for the past nine years - whenever another team makes a mistake, you've got to make them pay for it, and we were able to do that today," Patrick Henry coach Shawn Sunderman said.
"The deeper you get in the tournament, the more important it is that you've got to make the other team pay for every critical mistake."
Toledo Christian (20-6) lost for the first time this season to a D-IV team.
Patrick Henry will face Cincinnati Reading in a state tournament semifinal game at 1 p.m. on Friday at Huntington Park in Columbus.
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