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Whiteoak repeats as district champions

The Highland County Press - Staff Photo -
Stephen Forsha, The Highland County Press

CHILLICOTHE — For the second consecutive year, the Whiteoak Wildcats were the team hoisting a Division IV SE District championship trophy, this time defeating the Ironton St. Joseph Flyers, 10-0 in five innings at VA Memorial Stadium.

Whiteoak’s win moves them to 26-2 overall, and now they are headed to the regional semifinals on Thursday, June 1 at Beavers Field in Lancaster against a to-be-determined opponent.

“It means to me that as a program we've shown progression, because it's something that we've never done, and it's not easy,” head coach Chris Veidt said of the district title. “I mean, it's not easy winning a district championship. There's great teams in this district, and not only are there great teams in this district, you have to have a great regular season to set yourself up for success as well.

“With that being said, it's the kids that did it back to back, and it’s the kids that did it on the same stage this year as they did last year, and I'm telling you, they were poised. Kids are kids, and as human beings we all make mistakes, but to me, they were grace under pressure. They'll continue to do so. They’re a veteran group and a lot of fun to watch play baseball.”

In the district final game, the Wildcats scored in the first inning for a 1-0 lead, but it was an remarkable third inning which changed the entire pace and complexion of the game, as Whiteoak’s one-run lead turned into a seven-run lead after the third inning came to a close.

The third inning saw an 11-pitch at-bat forced by Solomon Combs to lead off the inning, and though the at-bat ended with a groundout, it set the tone for the Wildcat offense, as noted by Veidt.

“Solomon set the tone there with that 11-pitch at-bat, and I'll be honest with you, [Ironton St. Joseph pitcher Drew Brown] was kind of Greg Maddux-esque there for a while” Veidt said. “That 11-pitch at-bat opened up the floodgates, and we had adjusted to [Brown] in terms of timing as well. We hit some balls hard that inning.

“I’m just so proud of the kids and the way not only they approached that inning, but the way they've approached this stage, including Saturday. They've been nothing but a class act and grace under pressure.”

Combs’ at-bat forced Brown to raise his pitch count… and it worked, as Whiteoak’s patience and persistence pushed the St. Joseph pitcher to throw 42 pitches in the inning, an inning he didn’t finish.

After Combs’ at-bat, there was a base hit to centerfield off the bat of Luken Roades (2-for-3, two runs, two steals, HBP), who stole second base and went to third on a passed ball. Landon Barnett (1-or-3, two runs, one walk, two steals) followed with a five-pitch walk, and Roades scored on a sacrifice fly to right field by Carson Emery (2-for-3, one run, two RBI, two steals, HBP) for a two-run lead.

Barnett stole second base, and scored a run off a single by Nate Price (1-for-3, one run, one RBI), as Price built an eight-pitch at-bat. Price also scored a run in the inning for a 4-0 lead, and after drawing a walk, Ian Griffith (1-for-2, one run, two RBI) made it a five-run lead.

Whiteoak continued to apply pressure to the Flyers with Eli Roberts (2-for-3, one run, one RBI) and Zander Roades (1-for-3, one run, one RBI) scoring runs for a 7-0 lead. RBIs in the inning included Price, Roberts, Zander Roades (1-for-3, one run, one RBI) and David Donohoo (2-for-3, one run, one RBI).

“We talk about ways to apply pressure, and I'm not going to bore you with all the ways you can do it, but that's definitely one of the ways you do it,” Veidt said of forcing the 42-pitch inning. “I think people just think you do it on the base paths, and you don’t.

“It takes a while to incorporate that, but you’ve got to have kids that believe in that theory, too, and it takes some work, but they believe in it. They've seen it work. We preach it constantly, but it's the kid, it's the individual, that has to make that adjustment. All credit goes to them, obviously, and they're doing it, and they're reaping at this point in time what they sow.”

Before the six-run third inning, Whiteoak scored a run in the bottom of the first with Luken Roades leading off the inning with a single, then he stole second base. Roades scored the first run of the game with a one-out base hit off the bat of Carson Emery for a then 1-0 lead.

Whiteoak added two runs in the fourth inning for a 9-0 lead when Barnett and Emery started the bottom of the fourth with one-out base hits. With two outs, Griffith singled past the shortstop — on a 2-1 count — plating both runners for the nine-run lead.

The Wildcats loaded the bases in the bottom of the fifth with David Donohoo (hitting a single), Combs (a walk) and Luken Roades (hit by pitch) all reaching base. After the second out, the game ended with Emery being hit by a pitch, scoring Donohoo to win the district championship.

For the game, eight of Whiteoak’s 10 runs were scored with two outs.

Luken Roades was outstanding on the mound for Whiteoak, as he was perfect through 4.2 innings, not allowing a hit — a ball hit to shallow centerfield — until there were two outs left in the top of the fifth. In the win Roades allowed no runs on one hit with no walks, finishing with nine strikeouts.

“Luken and Landon — our entire pitching staff really, but especially those two — have led us this year, and they've just been outstanding and dominating,” Veidt said. “Luken was a Texas Leaguer away from a no-hitter.

“[Before the game] I was kind of waiting for St. Joe to finish infield and for us to be able to meet and get together. I heard three or four balls tank off the wood down there, and Dakota Clift, our bullpen catcher, came up. I said, ‘everything all right in there?’ And he said, ‘Yeah, Coach, I just think [Roades] is a little amped up tonight.’ I said, ‘Well, hopefully he can turn that warrior dial down to about four,’ and man, he absolutely did. He was outstanding.”

Veidt also thanked the community for their continued support, including attending the game that started at 4 p.m. on a Monday afternoon.

“There was a lot of orange and black in the stands, especially for the first game, when it's a four o'clock game and people are taking off work or getting here late,” Veidt said. “The support that we get from our community, our school district and our county is just tremendous. The kids see it, and the kids feed off of it. The kids appreciate it, and so do the coaches.”

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