(Courtesy of John Millikan, Sports Reporter, The Messenger)
HUNTINGBURG, Indiana — The Ohio Valley League championship will be decided Friday night at League Stadium, and Ryan Dills made sure of it.
The Dubois County Bombers right-hander pitched a gem on his 21st birthday Thursday night in Huntingburg, Indiana to lead the Bombers to a 4-3 victory in Game 2 of the OVL title series, setting up a winner-take-all Game 3 at 6 p.m. Friday.
Dills, an Evansville native, cruised through 8.1 innings and allowed just three hits and struck out nine to keep the Miners’ bats as quiet as they have been all season.
The Miners finished with just four hits, with two coming in the ninth inning as they nearly forged a dramatic comeback off a pair of Dubois County relievers. However, Madisonville left the tying run stranded on base, and the Bombers escaped to keep the OVL championship trophy locked up for another night.
“That last inning gives us a little confidence, but we are too good of an offensive team to have that kind of game,” Miners third baseman Wesley Birchmeier said. “Four hits, that’s not us. We scored 14 (in Wednesday’s series opener), and I think we are capable of doing that (Friday). Our heads are high, and that’s how we are coming into the final game.”
The Miners have been one of the league’s hottest teams in July, and coach Jared Franklin believes his squad will recapture that magic for the final game of the season.
“We have to leave it all on the field,” Franklin said. “There’s nothing to lose now. There is no tomorrow. This is what we played all summer for. We have swung it well all season, minus that game and maybe a few earlier in the season. I expect to come out swinging (Friday).”
The early part of Thursday’s game was dominated by the pitchers. Dills and Miners starter Mathias Brewers kept the game scoreless for the first three innings before the Bombers broke through for a pair of runs in the fourth.
Brewers lasted five innings and allowed six hits with two strikeouts, but Dills was even stronger and allowed just two hits — both singles to Miners catcher Andrew Tanous — through the first eight innings.
“We finally made some good adjustments in the ninth inning, but the story of the game is that we did not adjust to Dills throughout the game,” Franklin said. “We have seen him enough times, but we did not adjust at all. We knew he was going to pitch backwards, throw fastballs on off-speed counts and off-speed on fastball counts. We just couldn’t adjust to it.”
The Miners finally got on the scoreboard in the sixth inning when Tanous crossed the plate on a throwing error by Bombers shortstop Jacob Snodgrass.
With Madisonviill trailing 4-1, Nolan Ramsey led off the top of the top of the ninth with a single and came around to score on a throwing error. Shane Connahan was walked by Bombers reliever Konner Eck and later scored on an RBI single from Cory Finkler, who represented the tying run. However, Bombers right-hander Zach Freeman retired the final two hitters to extend Dubois County’s season.
Friday’s game will be the 13th time the Miners and Bombers play each other this season with Dubois County leading the series 7-5.
“This will sting on the bus ride home, but we will be ready for (Friday),” Birchmeier said. “We are confident. We are a hot team right now, and I think we will get it going again.”
WP-Dills. LP-Brewers. SV-Snodgrass.
The official OVL box score is available HERE.
The unofficial iScore scorecard is here: MAD@DUB July 30 scorecard
The unofficial iScore pitch-by-pitch game summary is here: MAD@DUB July 30 pitchbypitch