THE PLAINS — After falling behind by five runs, Circleville sent 12 batters to the plate in the fifth inning and nine in the sixth in battling back for a 12-5 win over Zane Trace.
The win over the top-seeded Pioneers advanced to the Tigers (16-10) to the Southeast District championship against Hillsboro at Ohio University.
“This has been our last three games, we didn’t quit and gritted it out,” CHS coach Brian Bigam said. “We did a good swinging the bat with two strikes in that inning.
“It’s all about momentum, and once a few guys get hits they tend to add on there and I was really proud of how they fought.”
After collecting two hits in the first inning, the Tigers went down in order in the next three before getting the bats going.
“We did a good job of understanding the umpire’s strike zone,” Bigam said of turning it around. “We got some hitters’ counts and even when we fell behind, and we had some counts in the pitcher’s favor, we fouled off some tough pitches and we were able to get some we could handle.
“We got three or four sac bunts down to move guys over and had guys get some timely hitting to hit them in.”
Circleville opened the fifth with Seth Risner and Cory Cline drawing walks. After Garrott Kennedy moved the runners over with a sacrifice, Ethan Wolfe singled in Risner to get the Tigers on the board. Andrew Barnhart singled in another run and then Brad Henry reached on an error that brought another Tiger across the plate. Garrett Gray then doubled in two more runs to tie the game and end the afternoon for ZT starter Jeremy Lambert.
Brandon Barker came on and gave up a double to Jake Mancini and then walked Jon Burns to load the bases. Risner’s second walk of the game forced in Gray with the go-ahead run and ended Barker’s stint on the mound.
Josh Lambert took over for ZT and got the final two outs of the fifth.
He didn’t fare as well in the sixth. After loading the bases on an error, a walk and a hit, Mancini singled to drive in two runs. Burns followed with an RBI single of his own. After getting the second out with a strikeout, Lambert gave up a two-run double to Circleville’s Cline and his time on the mound was up.
Tanner Congrove came on to get the last out of the sixth.
Circleville added one more in the seventh as Wolfe opened the inning with a single, moved up on a sacrifice and scored on a single from Henry.
Barnhart finished up a nearly spotless relief appearance by getting the Pioneers’ hitters to end the game by flying out to right, center and then left for the final outs.
Barnhart took over on the mound with one out in the fourth inning after ZT had gone up 4-0. He got the next two outs on a sacrifice fly (that brought in ZT’s fifth run) and a groundball.
“I love those kinds of inning and being in those situations. I do my best to get my job done,” Barnhart said. “When I’m pitching, I try to keep it low out of the zone. They’re a good hitting team. We came in here knowing that from the first time we played them.”
Yielding just one hit, he got 11 outs facing only 12 batters to get the win in relief of Mancini, who started for the Tigers.
“Not much phases him,” Bigam said. “He wants the ball.
“He can throw four pitches for strikes at any time so he does a good job keeping guys off balance.”
Seven Tigers collected hits Monday night with Gray having four hits, including a double, scoring twice and driving two in. Mancini had three hits, including a double, and drove in two.
Wolfe made his first appearance for the Tigers in a while as he entered the lineup as part of the pitching change in the fourth and reached on all three of his plate appearances with two hits and three runs scored.
“We need Ethan to be healthy. He’s been hampered with injuries all fall, all winter, all spring and he was cleared to come back today,” Bigam said. “Everyone contributed throughout the lineup. I was really proud of them.”
Using a swing in momentum to come back and blow open Monday’s game at Athens High School, the Tigers hope the momentum the team has built up during the season can carry them to a district title.
“I think we’ve now won 13 of our last 15. It took us a while to get going early in the season with the rain and getting used to me as a coach,” said Bigam, who is in his first year back as the Tigers’ coach. “I told them to celebrate it tonight, be happy about it but not satisfied.”
Circleville 000 065 1 12 13 4
Zane Trace 200 300 0 5 8 2
Mancini, Barnhart (4) and Gray; Je. Lambert, Barker (5), Jo. Lambert (5), Congrove (6) and Larson. W — Barnhart. L — Je. Lambert.