Wednesday, May 23, 2001

Regional baseball tourney starts today

Division I squads advanced with strong pitching

By Dave Schutte
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Elder coach Mark Thompson would not want to handicap the Division I baseball regional.

        The four teams — Fairfield, Elder, Lakota West and Hamilton — all have an ace pitcher and all have survived tough tests at district to advance.

        “Any of the four teams can win the regional,” Thompson said.

        Jason Bowlin (Fairfield), Steve Polen (Hamilton), Matt McCloy (Elder) and Austin Rhoads (Lakota West) each won two or more games during the sectional and district tournaments.

        And each team's top pitcher will throw today in the regional semifinals at Wright State.

        Fairfield battles Lakota West at 2p.m., followed by the Elder-Hamilton game. The winner of Saturday's 1p.m. regional championship reserves a spot in next week's state final four in Columbus.

        Lakota West defeated Elder, Hamilton and Fairfield during the regular season en route to a 23-7 record.

        Rhoads and the Firebirds defeated Fairfield 2-1. But when Bowlin pitched for Fairfield, the Indians pulled out a 3-2 victory.

        “We're both capable of scoring runs, but I expect a tight game because of the quality pitchers,” West coach Bill Driesbach said.

        Rhoads is 11-0 this season, including a 2-0 victory over Springfield North in Saturday's district championship.

        “Austin loves to throw and is very durable,” Driesbach said.

        Bowlin pitched Fairfield to victory over Colerain in the sectional championship game and also was the winner over Moeller in the district.

        He mixed in curves with his fastball to keep hitters off stride.

        Elder and Hamilton played March 31, with Thompson's Panthers winning 12-11.

        “That game was early in the season and doesn't mean a lot,” said Hamilton sophomore Nate Mahon, who drove in five runs for the Big Blue in the district championship victory over Troy. “At that point, we hadn't come together, but today we're a team.”

        McCloy has been Elder's go-to pitcher the past three weeks.

        “Matt's stepped up when Steve Thomas went down with tendinitis,” Thompson said. “(Matt's) lost only one game. He's been outstanding in the tournament.”

        Against Clayton Northmont in the district championship Saturday, McCloy scattered three hits, struck out eight, walked one and didn't allow a runner to reach third base.

        Hamilton counters with Polen, a senior right-hander with an 8-2 record.

        “Polen has a fastball in the mid- 80s,” Thompson said. “He also has a good curve and knows how to mix it up.”

        During the past five years, Elder and Hamilton have developed a good rivalry.

        “It's more of a respect thing,” Thompson said. “They respect our program, and we respect theirs. This is the type of game you want to win. I expect a war.”


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