COLUMBUS — All dreams have to come to an end.
For the Fredericktown Freddies, their dream season ended in a rain-filled day just one game shy of the state championship.
The Freddies fell Friday, 3-0, to the Wheelersburg Pirates in a Division III state semifinal game at Huntington Park.
The game was delayed for nearly two hours as officials waited for the morning rain to move off. Once it did, the two teams began a battle in which both the Freddies and the Pirates stood toe-to-toe, with defenses shining and batters feeling overwhelmed.
That is, except in the fourth inning.
With two outs and nobody on, a booted groundball in the infield allowed Wheelersburg DH Ben Arnold to reach first. The next batter, Alex Shears, was walked, and the floodgates opened.
The error didn’t bother pitcher Nash Cunningham.
“We had two out and a guy on, so it wasn’t hurting us,” said Cunningham. “We hadn’t given up a hit, so I wasn’t feeling two concerned about it. But they started poking it around. And I walked a kid — I can’t do that.”
The third out came on a dramatic play, when catcher Tyler Ruhl couldn’t handle ball four and the ball rolled behind him. He recovered in time to throw home, where Cunningham waited to tag out Pirates catcher Dylan Miller.
But by then, three runs had scored — the only three runs in the game, it would turn out.
Cunningham’s line was impressive — seven innings, four hits (three in that fateful sequence), no earned runs, two walks and seven strikeouts.
Not the statistics you’d expect for a losing pitcher.
“Nash was outstanding on the mound,” said Fredericktown head coach Tom Craze. “He had his pop today. I thought it was one of his best outings.”
As good as Cunningham was, Derek Moore was better. The Wheelersburg senior hit up to 87 m.p.h. on his fastball, leaving most Fredericktown batters either swinging at air or staring at a called strike. Moore’s complete-game shutout was highlighted by 11 strikeouts, four hits and just one walk. He struck out the side in the fifth — all three on called third strikes.
For three innings, the Pirates couldn’t figure out Cunningham, either. The junior was perfect through three with four strikeouts. When Cunningham returned to the mound after the three-run fourth, he picked up his dominance by allowing just one single in the sixth by Garrett Carmichael. On the next pitch, Ruhl threw Carmichael out on a steal attempt.
Wheelersburg scored its three runs on back-to-back-to-back singles. One of which was a bloop by Carmichael that Fredericktown center fielder Matt Smith failed to find.
“(Smith) couldn’t pick it up coming off the back part of the stadium,” said Craze. “Tough break. And we couldn’t counter.”
Fredericktown finally rallied in the sixth when Austin Hathaway singled, then advanced when Mitch Sellers had a perfectly placed bunt single. With just one out and Smith at the plate, Craze sent the runners to get them in scoring position.
The plan didn’t work. Miller threw out Hathaway at third. Then, Smith grounded out to second.
Smith struck the first blow of the game, smacking a two-out double into left centerfield. Two pitches later, he stole third. He would be stranded, however, when Moore struck out Cunningham.