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Pirates swat away late threat from Bees

RHS advances to sectional final with 7-5 win

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Riverside’s Dustin Proffitt records an out at second base against Bethel’s Mason Kretzer during their Division IV sectional tournament game Thursday at Riverside High School. (EXAMINER PHOTO | AARON LaBATT)

If there was a lesson to be learned by Riverside’s baseball team Wednesday, it was to be relentless.

The state-ranked Pirates saw a 7-0 lead slowly diminish against visiting Bethel in a Division IV sectional semifinal, but managed to regain their focus and hold on for a 7-5 victory and advance.

“We got up 7-0 and the guys have to learn to keep going and to keep the throttle down,” said Riverside head coach Scott Mann. “They thought Bethel was going to quit and you can’t do that. As you go on in a game, each out becomes harder and harder to get. You have to keep that focus.”

The Pirates (18-8) now play in the sectional championship game Wednesday at 5 p.m. in Botkins where they have a rematch from last year’s sectional title game with Lehman Catholic.

“Looking forward for the tournament, we just have to use this as a learning moment,” said Mann. “It comes down to simple things. We have to go back to practice and work on things and learn from this game.”

The start of Wednesday’s game couldn’t have been much better for Riverside as it scored seven runs in the first three innings.

The Pirates’ Landon Kelsey hit a sacrifice fly to score Dustin Proffitt in the first inning for an early 1-0 lead.

After neither team scored in the second inning, Mann called a meeting at the front of the dugout. He didn’t like how tight the Pirates were playing and told them to have fun.

His players got the message loud and clear and delivered a seven-hit, six-run outburst in the bottom of the third inning.

A throwing error allowed Riverside’s Kelsey and Tanner Lane to score, giving the hosts a 3-0 lead.

The momentum continued to grow for the Pirates. Connor Cotterman hit an RBI single to score Jake Herron, Dakota Bollinger hit an RBI double to score Cotterman, Proffitt followed with an RBI single to plate Bollinger and Luke Greene hit an RBI double to drive in Proffitt.

That slew of hits pushed the Pirates out to a 7-0 advantage.

“That inning was huge,” said Mann. “We practice hitting the ball up the middle and it seemed like we were replacing our guy at second base every time. We’d bring our guy on second home and hit someone else there.”

Then the momentum slowly began to shift toward Bethel. A walk, a hit to the gap, an error. They all added up to frustrate the Pirates.

The Bees collected a pair of runs in the fifth inning to make the score 7-2. Bethel went on to load the bases with two outs, but Riverside’s Jake Herron made a diving catch in center field to halt the momentum and end the inning.

“That catch Jake had stopped a rally they were having,” said Mann. “That was a big catch. If he hadn’t caught that we might still be out here playing.”

The Bees weren’t done buzzing yet, though, as they attempted to rally again in the top of the sixth inning.

Bethel scored three more runs to trail Riverside 7-5 before loading the bases again with two outs. The Pirates were able to escape the inning without surrendering another run.

Riverside was able to keep the Bees scoreless in the seventh to preserve the win.

Dallas Daniels recorded the win on the mound for the Pirates.

Offensively, Proffitt finished with two hits, two RBI and scored two runs, Greene had two hits, Dalton Bollinger had a double, while Herron, Kelsey, Cotterman and Dakota Bollinger each added an RBI.

RIVERSIDE 7, BETHEL 5

Bees    000    023    0    —    5    10    2

Pirates    106    000    X    —    7    7    4

Elam, Pelphrey (4) and Baughman; Daniels, Proffitt (6) and Bollinger. WP—Daniels; LP—Elam.

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