CHILLICOTHE --The 2013 Ridgewood High baseball season came to a disappointing end on Friday in the Division III Regional Finals at the Veterans Hospital Field in Chillicothe.
The state-ranked Wheelersburg Pirates got a complete-game pitching effort from Wade Martin, who tossed a 4-0 shutout at the locals.
"That is a heckuva good team we just played," said disappointed RHS coach Chad Lahna. "They got a great pitched game, played well defensively and got some key hits. Their pitcher got ahead of our hitters and got stronger as the game went on."
Ridgewood was only able to reach Martin for four hits as the sophomore right-hander fanned 13 and walked just one.
The Generals almost got to Martin in their first at-bat. After Brice Hammond led off the game by reaching on the Pirates' only error of the contest, he was sac bunted to second by Seth Bergeron. C.J. Grove then received Martin's only walk before Zak Keesee singled and moved Hammond and Grove up one base each.
With the sacks loaded, Ryan Lowe flied to right. Hammond tagged from third and tried to score, but a pair of perfect throws allowed the Pirates to cut Hammond down at the plate for the rally-ending double-play.
"That was a key play," Lahna admitted. "If we score there, we go up 1-0 and are still batting, but, like I said, they're a great team. On that play, we score unless they make two perfect throws and that's just what they did."
Buoyed by their defensive stop in the top of the first, the Pirates got a runner to third in the bottom of the frame, but General starter Grove wriggled off the hook with a strikeout and a fielders choice out.
Ridgewood's Dillon McPherson led off the second with a single and was sac bunted to second by Gage Young. After Martin's first strikeout, McPherson was picked off second and was thrown out at third to end the threat.
Wheelersburg finally broke through with a run in its second, taking advantage of Grove's wildness. The Pirates' Clay Massie worked Grove for a one out walk and eventually came around to score thanks to a single, another pair of walks and two wild pitches.
Grove's mound problems prompted Lahna to make a pitching change, bringing Thursday's winner Keesee to the mound in the third.
"C.J. had some control issues tonight," Lahna admitted, "but he battled. He deserved to get this start. I wish it had turned out better."
While Keesee breezed through the third, Martin was starting to dominate, fanning six Generals in a row at one point and eight of nine.
The winners tallied another run it their fourth when Martin helped his cause by slicing a run scoring double to right center.
Lowe got a two out double in the fourth and Grove got a two out single in the sixth. That was the extent of the General offense as Martin dominated, striking out the side in the seventh to put an exclamation point on his effort.
Wheelersburg's Ben Arnold stroked a two run single in their sixth to plate another pair of insurance tallies.
With a 20-win season now behind him, Lahna paid tribute to his four seniors for spearheading the drive to tourney success. "We were kinda' spinning our wheels at times early in the season," the coach explained, "but our seniors began to lead and once we got into a routine of playing games, we just got better and better. We certainly would not have gotten to this point without the leadership of those four."
The departing 12th graders will be Kody Hains, Keesee, Grove and McPherson.
With Friday's setback, Ridgewood's season concludes at 20-10 while Wheelersburg advances to this week's D-III State Tourney with a mark of 27-4.
In Friday's opening round regional semifinal, the combination of senior Keesee's outstanding effort on the mound and a big offensive inning lifted the Generals to a 12-2 victory over Oak Hill in a five-run mercy victory.
Keesee improved to 7-1 on the year, tossing a three-hitter with a pair of strikeouts and just one base-on-balls.
With the RHS holding a 5-2 lead, the winners put the game away with a seven-run explosion in the bottom of the fourth frame.
Hammond led the Generals as hit attack with a double, two singles and four RBIs, while Grove added a triple and single and Gage Young chipped in with a pair of base hits. Freshman Austin Lowery contributed an RBI double for the Generals.