HAMILTON – The fourth meeting of the baseball season between Greater Catholic League South rivals La Salle and Elder was a familiar feeling, mostly a product of the pitcher’s duel and because both teams play a similar brand of baseball. On Thursday night at Hamilton, La Salle blanked Elder 1-0 and won a Division I sectional championship.
La Salle senior starting pitcher Nick Ernst, who’s signed with Miami University, stood tall with a powerful complete-game shutout performance. It was the third time this season Ernst faced Shane Smith, Elder’s ace who’s also signed with Miami, and the Panthers won the first two.
“I did it (threw well) to them all three games,” Ernst said after. “It was payback time … I thought third time’s a charm.”
Senior Anthony Bell drove in what proved to be the game-winning run in the third inning, scoring senior Alec Lane.
“(Anthony) Bell just comes up with big hits,” La Salle coach Joe Voegele said. “He leads the GCL in RBI. He’s a tough out.”
Ernst allowed three hits, and stopped the Panthers from reaching third base. Smith, who also hurled a complete-game, allowed just four hits, but three happened to be in the same inning.
“I think Ernst has been throwing better progressively. He’s put together three great games (in a row): Moeller, Westerville Central and now this one,” explained Voegele. “Our defense helped us again. This is the best defensive team (in my career) at La Salle.”
Three of the four games between Elder and La Salle this season were decided by one run.
“He’s done that for two years against us, it doesn’t surprise me,” Voegele said of the Elder ace.
After addressing his team for the final time, Elder coach Mark Thompson said: “Ernst did a good job getting his breaking ball over today. That was probably the difference, rather than the (first) two times. He did a good job keeping (our hitters) off speed with that breaking ball, mixing his pitches. He did a nice job. He pitched today. Both guys went at it, they got the run early and we just couldn’t push one across.”
Ernst and Smith have quite the head-to-head history together, and come next spring they’ll be wearing the same colors.
“Yea, we’re pretty good friends, we get a little trash-talking on the field,” Ernst said, referring to Smith. “I like him a lot, he’s a good dude.”
La Salle, winner of seven straight, advances to a district final against Hamilton (16-12) on Saturday at Western Hills at 11 a.m.
La Salle 001 000 0––1 4 1
Elder 000 000 0––0 3 2
W–Ernst (4-4); L–Smith (6-1). Leaders: L–Bell 2-3, RBI. Records: L 23-6, E 21-8