XENIA — It was another example of pulse-pounding, heart-stopping, edge-of-your-seat baseball — Fredericktown Freddies style.
Thursday, the Freddies gained a berth in the OHSAA Division III regional final for the first time in school history by defeating the Cincinnati Madiera Mustangs, 4-3, at the Athletes in Action Sports Complex in Xenia.
It was another come-from-behind win, topped off with relief pitcher Matt Smith wriggling out of a bases-loaded jam to end the game.
“We got down and it’s kind of been like this all year,” said Fredericktown coach Tom Craze, whose team will face Hamilton Badin today at 2:30 for the right to go to the state Final Four. “We just have to fight back and fight back.”
Down by one in the bottom of the sixth, Fredericktown pulled a double-steal, with Nash Cunningham heading to second. While the Mustangs tried to get him out, Smith came down from third and scored under the catcher’s tag, tying the game.
On the next play, Andrew Hulse singled and scored Cunningham, who had made his way to third on the wild play.
For the first four innings, Freddies’ starter Cunningham was holding his own against Madiera sinkerballer Griffin Tate. Although Cunningham gave up four hits in the first four innings, no Mustang runners got past second base.
In the meantime, Tate retired 12 of the first 14 Freddies he faced. The Freddies appeared perplexed, at times, by the sinker he was throwing.
“We see the slider, the curveball and some change ups,” said Freddies first baseman Kaleb Phillips. “We’ve never seen the sinker. It was like a deeper curveball. We just had to adjust to it.”
Both pitchers benefitted from stellar defensive plays from their respective centerfielders. In the top of the fourth with two on and one out, Smith made a diving catch on a sinking drive off the bat of Madiera outfielder Josh Lowndes. Cunningham struck out the next batter to retire the side.
In the bottom of the fourth, Fredericktown shortstop Justin Snyder hit a shot off Tate that looked like it would go for extra bases. Mustangs centerfielder Andrew Benintendi ran it down, making an over the shoulder catch to end the inning.
Madiera broke through against Cunningham in the top of the fifth when Madiera leftfielder Joe Bodnar slapped an RBI single to center with two on and nobody out. Shortstop Zack Jansen followed with a run-scoring sacrifice fly to chase Cunningham.
Craze brought in Derek Thompson in relief. Thompson, who was the winning pitcher in the district final against Northmor, was greeted by Madiera catcher Timmy James with an RBI ground rule double to give the Mustangs a 3-0 lead. Thompson would soon settle down and retire the last two batters in the fifth.