CHILLICOTHE – It took a total of eight innings, overcoming a lethargic start and surviving a scare that could have ended its season but in the end, Paint Valley took care of business.
While it may not have been pretty, the Bearcats (20-5) won in walk-off fashion over Symmes Valley, Monday night in a Division IV District Final at VA Memorial Stadium, by a final score of 5-4 — securing the school’s second consecutive district title.
“We’ve told the kids from day one that if you play hard on every pitch, whatever the results, positive or negative, we’ll live with them,” Paint Valley coach Shayne Combs said. “That was so true tonight. We grinded our way back into the game and allowed our talent the chance to steal the win late. I don’t know that we could’ve done that last year. I don’t know if we would have had that experience to fight the way we did tonight.”
The No. 1 seeded Bearcats allowed the No. 2 Vikings to flash the makings of an upset in the early going.
Paint Valley starting pitcher Anthony McFadden cruised through a 1-2-3 inning in the top of the first but ran into a heap of trouble in the second. After Symmes Valley’s Jacob Klaiber singled to start the inning, he moved to second on a sacrifice bunt. McFadden then sat down Trent Thompson swinging for the second out of the inning.
With two outs, Tylor Carpenter managed to shoot a seeing-eye single through the Bearcats’ infield, scoring Klaiber and giving the Vikings a 1-0 lead. While Carpenter took his lead off first, teammate Chayden Renfroe shot a ball into centerfield that bounced over Bearcats’ center fielder Johnathan Henson’s head and rolled to the warning track, allowing Carpenter to easily scamper home and extend the early edge to 2-0.
Symmes Valley (13-2) would then add to that advantage in the top of the third thanks to a costly Bearcat’ error that extended the inning and a wild pitch that opened the door for lead-off hitter Payton Hayes to score, making it 3-0, Vikings.
The Bearcats would not have any sort of answer until the bottom of the fourth inning where they finally hit the scoreboard as senior Clay Archer hit a sacrifice fly into right field to plate Josh Krech, cutting the lead to 3-1.
The Vikings would then chase McFadden from the bump in the top of the fourth as they scored one run on three hits to take a 4-1 lead, making way for Mason McCloy to take the hill for the Bearcats. While McCloy kept throwing up doughnut holes in his body of work, Paint Valley’s offense would start to chip away at the lead.
With two outs in the bottom of the fifth, right fielder Drake Stanforth drew a walk before coming into score on a Teagan McFadden RBI triple. McCloy — the next batter — then decided he liked what he saw out of McFadden and laced an RBI triple of his own into right field, scoring McFadden and deflating the Viking’s lead back to just one run at 4-3.
McCloy held the Vikings hitless in the top half of the sixth, giving Henson the chance to put his superhero cape on in the bottom half.
After designated hitter Skyler Knisley led off the inning with a single, Archer followed suit to give the Bearcats runners on first and second with no outs. Caleb Johnson then lined a ball to first base on a check swing — with Archer making his way to second on the pitch — allowing the Vikings to turn a double play. With Gavin Mendenhall — pinch running for Knisley — standing on second base and two outs in the inning, Henson stepped to the plate and delivered the goods, logging a game tying RBI single.
However, Henson hadn’t quite quenched his thirst for the limelight just yet.
As each team failed to score in the seventh and the score tied 4-4, A. McFadden re-entered the ballgame on the mound due to McCloy reaching his inning limit (10 in three days per OHSAA rules). McFadden allowed a hit and a walk to start the eighth but then retired three straight to end the threat.
After Knisley, Archer and Johnson all singled in procession to begin the bottom half of the eighth, Henson drew a five pitch walk to knock in the winning run and secure the Bearcats’ second straight D-IV district title.
“It was nerve racking there in the sixth inning,” Henson said. “When I got up to bat in the last inning, I did what Coach Combs told me to do at the beginning of the season. I just took a breath and relaxed and I wasn’t really nervous at that point. I was willing to wear a pitch to the face for my team at that point. This was a big game for us. Everybody played great tonight in my eyes. We got the win and that’s what matters most.”
And so the beat goes on for the 2015 Paint Valley Bearcats.
Knisley led the Bearcats at the dish, going 3-4. T. McFadden went 2-4 with a triple, RBI and a run while Henson finished 1-3 with two RBIs.
A. McFadden was the pitcher of record, picking up the win in a combined 5 2/3 innings of work which included nine hits allowed, three earned runs, five whiffs and two base on balls.
Paint Valley advances to a Division IV Regional Semifinal, May 28 at Beavers Field in Lancaster. The Bearcats will face the Newark district champion.
“If we play like we can, we’ll do well in the regional tournament,” Henson said, sporting a humongous well-earned grin on his face post game. “If we play like we did tonight and harder, we’ve got a shot at the final four.”