Northmor claims district title


Northmor broke out of their recent offensive struggles in a big way at the best possible time on Wednesday.

Competing in the Division III baseball district finals at Big Walnut High School, the Golden Knights scored three runs in the first inning and four in the second to jump out to a commanding 7-2 lead over Fairfield Christian Academy in a game they would win 9-3 to advance to their first regional since 1995, when the team advanced all the way to the Final Four.

“That was huge,” said head coach Buck Workman of his team’s start. “I went back through the last night games and we won two games 1-0, we got shut out twice and we won another 2-1. We just went into a funk. I know they’re capable of doing it. Everybody top to bottom in the line-up has shown they can do it — they just haven’t done it together and today we were finally able to do some things.”

FCA manufactured a run in the first inning to take an early lead, but Northmor wasted no time in responding. Cole Cuffman smacked a one-out triple and then, with two outs, Billy Bowlin brought him home with a single. A grounder by Jack Bowdre was then misplayed to put runners on the corners and Garrett Harvey was walked to load the bases. Trevor Brubaker and Nick Armrose would each drive in a run via being hit by pitch to give Northmor a 3-1 edge.

Fairfield Christian closed to within a 3-2 margin in the second inning, but the Golden Knights had another answer. A single by Grant Bentley and walk issued to Cuffman forced a pitching change by FCA, but that didn’t give them better results on the mound immediately. Drew Hammond singled to load the bases and Bowlin followed with a two-run double. Another would cross home plate on a wild pitch and Bowdre made it 7-2 for Northmor with a run-scoring groundout.

Those runs would be more than enough for Northmor. After some early-game struggles, Hammond only gave up one baserunner over the next three — during which time the Golden Knights picked up two more scores on another wild pitch in the third and a run-scoring single by Brubaker in the fourth. Hammond noted that the team’s strong offense helped him settle down.

“Just to know I have some runs behind me and the defense is going to play,” he said. “The comfort of having runs and a cushion, it just makes everything easier and the flow of the game easier.”

Hammond left with two outs in the sixth inning and Brubaker finished the game, only giving up a late score in the seventh to cut their final margin of victory to six runs. Workman noted that his pitching staff has been a consistent strength all year.

“Our staff has just been doing it,” he said. “Grant and Drew have been doing it for four years and Trevor’s been doing it for two years. They’re just huge. I had Trevor warmed up in the third inning because Drew kind of struggled his first two innings and threw 51 pitches. I didn’t know how far he could go, but he settled down and got us 5.2 strong innings. It’s just huge to have that pitching. It gives you a chance in any game.”

And with the upcoming regionals taking place on Thursday and Friday, that pitching depth could play a huge role with so little time between games.

“I’ve been here a long time and we’ve had years where we’ve had two pretty good guys, but having that third and Bryce Cooper’s not chopped liver that that fourth spot either,” he said. “Having that depth makes a tremendous difference. It lets you do so much more.”

The significance of the win wasn’t lost on Workman’s players after the team fell in the district finals the past two years. Many of those players also have competed on the basketball team and seen their seasons end in that round the past two season.

“It’s pretty special to us,” said Hammond. “There’s a lot of us seniors who’ve played multiple different sports and we’ve made it to the district championship a couple times and we just haven’t been able to bring back the gold and to finally do it my senior year is a great feeling.”

“It feels great,” added Bentley, who noted that the experience of those previous games paid off. “We’ve got a lot of basketball guys here and a lot of baseball guys. We were talking, like five district titles and it definitely helps. We hadn’t won one yet, but it definitely paid off.”

Workman agreed that having a lot of athletes who’ve experienced enough success to know what it’s like to be in a number of big postseason games has really helped.

“I think it’s huge,” he said. “In the first 15 years I was here, we struggled as a sports program in general and now we’ve had success in basketball, football, baseball. “My guys know how to win because they’re in those other sports. If something goes bad, they don’t panic and that means a lot.”

Now, with a trip to Cincinnati for regional in their future, Northmor is looking to add to their postseason experiences.

“It’s going to be awesome,” said Bentley. “It’s all about taking in the experience. Obviously, we want to win, but there’s a lot of cool memories there that I want to take in. I know we have a tough game Thursday against Russia, but I want to take in the experience.”

Rob Hamilton can be reached at 419-946-3010, ext. 1807. Connect with him on Twitter at @SportsMCS

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