Northeastern didn’t miss a beat.
And the Knights didn’t miss an opportunity to add another county championship in baseball.
Shortly after outlasting Centerville in nine innings, Northeastern knocked off Hagerstown 4-0 Saturday to end the Tigers’ three-year reign atop the Wayne County Tournament.
Del Caudill tossed a complete-game shutout — his second this season against Hagerstown — as the Knights claimed their first county crown since 2009.
“It’s great. We’ve been looking forward to this tournament for a while now,” said Caudill, a senior who allowed three hits and struck out four. “Coming out and winning as a senior is nice.”
Caudill was the winning pitcher when the Knights halted Hagerstown 4-0 earlier this year in Tri-Eastern Conference play.
The right-hander got some early help from his offense. Skyler Ashcraft plated two runs in the top of the first with a triple to right field, and Craig Dingwerth made it 3-0 with a sacrifice fly to right in the third.
Garrett Dill plated the final Northeastern run with a seventh-inning RBI single.
“It just kind of makes a statement of where we’re at now. We’ve been trying to turn that corner for a couple weeks now,” said first-year Northeastern coach Steve Bray. “We keep building on quality wins, beating quality teams, getting quality wins. That’s kind of how we measure ourselves.
“Coming out here and getting two quality wins today was big. It’s big for the program, big for this year. It keeps us in the right direction.”
The Knights (14-4) fended off a Centerville rally to hold off the Bulldogs 8-7 in nine innings. That came on the heels of Hagerstown’s 4-3 win over Lincoln in nine innings in Saturday’s first game.
The championship started about 30 minutes after Jordan Allen ended the semifinal round with a run-scoring base hit to right field.
“We’ve been trying to play all three phases of the game — pitching hitting and defense,” Bray said. “If we play for 21 outs, we’re going to be a hard team to beat.
” … They kept their composure. That’s what we’re really focusing on right now, trying to win every phase of the game.”
Caudill and the Knight defense came through when Hagerstown threatened.
The Tigers had two on and two out after a walk and single in the bottom of the fifth, but Northeastern forced a runner out at second base to end the inning.
The Tigers had another opportunity in the sixth. Dylan Woolard reached on a one-out, infield single and Jonah McKissick followed with a double.
Caudill responded by inducing a foul pop-up to first base, then striking out the next batter.
“I decided I’d just try to hit my spots and let my defense do the work, Caudill said.
“I just stayed calm. I knew my defense was behind me.”
Bryan Mathews threw a complete game in the final for Hagerstown. Mathews struck out six.
“When they (the Knights) need to, they’re getting the big hits, and we’re not right now,” said Hagerstown coach Brad Catey. “Caudill has just kept us off-balance. I thought quality at-bat wise we did pretty well. We worked a lot of counts.
“Had a chance, we just didn’t finish them. We’re a couple inches here or there on a couple balls hit to the fence from being a different outcome.”
The Tigers (15-7) and Knights each have a chance to clinch a share of the TEC title in the coming week. Both are 5-1 in conference play, with Northeastern playing host Tuesday to Lincoln and Hagerstown traveling Thursday to Union City.
Union County also has just one TEC loss.
“We’re getting the runners there, we just have to finish,” Catey said. “When you get runners on base against Northeastern, you’ve got to put them in or they’re going to beat you.”
Hagerstown won county championships from 2011-13. Centerville was the 2010 champion, breaking up a three-year streak for the Knights from 2007-09.
The sectional draw is Tuesday. Northeastern plays host Monday to Eastern Hancock.
“We’re not looking past anybody,” Bray said.