LANCASTER — The Fredericktown Freddies were crowned the kings of Division III Central District baseball Thursday night after slaying the Golden Knights of Northmor in a classic 2-0 duel.
In doing so, the Freddies earned their first district title in nearly 40 years.
Both pitchers fired three hitters, but the difference was Fredericktown pitcher Derek Thompson’s ability to get out of trouble. Thompson had two runners on base in the second and fourth innings, but allowed none to score.
“At first, I was really nervous,” said Thompson. “Then, when I started throwing more and more strikes, I just kind of got in the groove, more and more.”
The Freddies finally settled down and got to Northmor hurler Zach Carroll in the sixth.
Shortstop Nash Cunningham delivered the decisive blow — a clutch two-run single in the sixth inning to break open what had been a scoreless deadlock.
Freddies’ right fielder Mitch Sellers drew a two-out walk and stole second on a 2-1 pitch to center fielder Matt Smith. With first open, Smith was intentionally walked. That was when Cunningham stepped to the plate.
If that wasn’t enough, the Freddies turned up the heat on Carroll even more, pulling a double steal to leave first base open again. This time, the Knights decided to pitch to the batter. With the count at 1-and-2, Cunningham stroked a single to left to score Sellers and Smith with the game’s only runs.
It was the second time in a week that Cunningham drove in the winning run. He did so in the sectional final against Johnstown in the seventh.
“I knew what we had to do to win,” said Cunningham. “I just came up with a big shot to win it. I had to put it in play. I had guys in second and third base and both of them have some speed. (The hit) tailed off into the gap in right-center.”
“It was clutch for us,” said Fredericktown coach Tom Craze. “Nash came in and put the ball in play. Our kids just fought hard all night long. I couldn’t be more proud of this program and these kids.”
All that was left for Thompson was to finish off the Knights in the seventh. Smith came to the mound with two on and two out to get the final out and preserve the win with his sixth save of the season.
“Coach uses me that way — he wants me to come in,” said Smith. “Derek pitched a helluva game. You can’t get much better than that — six and two-thirds. Three hits? That’s fantastic. We need that. It’s the playoffs and every game is close now. It doesn’t get much better than this.”
The win comes nearly a month after these same two teams faced each other at Fredericktown with the Freddies also winning that one, 6-3.