By Garth Shanklin
Bethel-Tate High School’s first-ever trip to the regional semifinals resulted in a season-ending defeat at the hands of a familiar foe.
Facing off against the Blanchester Wildcats for the third time this season, the Tigers surrendered six first-inning runs en route to a 13-3 loos at Xenia’s Athletes in Action facility on Thursday, May 24.
The Tigers earned the schools first-ever trip to the regionals with a come-from-behind victory over Dayton Christian one week prior, but the team dug an early hole they couldn’t dig out of in the first inning.
With one out in the first inning, Bethel-Tate’s Dylan Whisman allowed a single to Dustin Howard, another base hit to Brant Bandow and a walk to Chris Farrow to load the bases for Justin Ballard.
Ballard hit a ball to the drawn-in Tiger infield at third base, but the throw to home plate sailed and a pair of runs scored.
“It was a bad mistake on our end,” Bethel-Tate head coach Dion Pangallo said.
Things snowballed from there. After the error, Brody Rice Singled in two more runs, moved to second on a passed ball and took third on a wild pitch.
Cole Ficke then flew out to center, but Eric Patton walked to bring up Breston Griffin, the nine hitter. Griffin drove in two more to make it 6-0 after one inning.
The Tigers got a run back in their half of the first. Whisman singled with one out, moved to second on a steal and took third on a groundout. He scored on a balk for Bethel-Tate’s first run.
The Tigers gave up another run in the second on a walk, a groundout, a passed ball and a single by Farrow.
Bethel-Tate answered with a solo run in the bottom of the frame, with Matt Clements singling, moving to second on an error and third on a passed ball. He scored on another passed ball for a 6-2 score.
The Tigers went down in order in the third, fifth and sixth innings, managing a one-out single by Tyler Baker in the fourth.
In the seventh, Bethel-Tate got a third run on a hit batter, an error and a single by Whisman, but Blanchester had scored five runs over the previous two innings to put the game out of reach.
For the game, the Tigers managed just five hits, all singles. Pangallo said the team hits better than that, but the baseball doesn’t always bounce the way you want it to.
“Sometimes a ball has eyes,” Pangallo said. “They just didn’t make it through. We’re a good hitting team, we just ran a little tired and it caught up with us.”
The Tigers’ pitching, which had been a strength of the team during the regular season, faltered a bit as the team was forced to play regional games.
“We started to get tired and ran out of pitching,” Pangallo said.
Even with the loss, Pangallo said the squad had a fantastic season, recording the school’s deepest postseason run in baseball to date.
“It was an extremely successful season,” Pangallo said. “The boys have never made it this far before. Being sectional champs, then regional champs and having a chance to make it to the finals was exciting for the boys.”
A few key players for the team will not return in 2018, however, thanks to graduation. Whisman and Baker are two of the team’s starters who won’t return, along with senior catcher Aaron Bohl and outfielder/catcher Malachi Price, who scored the team’s final run against the Wildcats.
“We’re going to lose two starters,” Pangallo said. “My seniors were phenomenal this year, even the two who didn’t start. They were great role leaders, they helped keep the bench pumped up. Whisman was a great pitcher for us all year long, Baker had a phenomenal attitude and was a great first basemen. I couldn’t have asked for more from our seniors.”
Pangallo also thanked the Bethel community and school for embracing the team as they made their postseason run.
“We want to thank the high school for all the help they gave us,” Pangallos said. “Penny Church and the board, they were behind the boys 100 percent and we’re extremely grateful.”
Bethel-Tate finishes the season with a 15-7 overall record and an 8-4 mark in the Southern Buckeye Athletic and Academic Conference National Division. The Tigers finished third in the league this past year, one game behind Clermont Northeastern and two behind the Wildcats.