HAMILTON — In order to win the school’s first district baseball championship, Blanchester needed to beat not only Carlisle but also the weather.
The weather proved to be too much to overcome, as Friday’s Division III district championship game was suspended due to rain and lightning with Blanchester leading 8-6 in the seventh inning.
The game will be resumed from the suspension point beginning at Noon Saturday at Brookville High School, according to the Southwest District Athletic Board website. Blanchester has a runner on third and two outs in the top of the seventh when the game continues.
Blanchester’s offense struck like a bolt of lightning in the first inning, forcing the Indians to play catch-up from the start.
Before Carlisle ever picked up a bat, the Wildcats led 7-0. Blanchester batted around, sending 13 to the plate. Six first-inning hits drove in the seven runs, spotting first-time starter Justin Ballard a big cushion.
Chris Farrow, Justin Ballard, Brody Rice, Eric Patton, Preston Griffin and Brant Bandow all had RBI hits in the seven-run opening frame.
“We just decided to hit the baseball,” BHS head coach Aaron Lawson said. “We got baserunners on, kept them in motion, and found a way to put up seven runs.”
With Ballard getting the start, getting the big lead was a chance for him to settle into the game.
“He’s never started a game in his whole career,” Lawson said. “I think that start eased the pressure on him. We knew he was going to go out there and throw strikes, and whatever happens, happens.”
Carlisle would answer in the first. After being shelled on the mound in the first, Brandon Saylor got a measure of revenge by blasting a three-run homer over the fence in left. It pulled Carlisle within 7-3.
With the score 8-4, Carlisle would get two more in the fourth to pull within 8-6. They had a chance in the fifth with runners on second and third, but Patton, who came on to pitch in the fourth, got a strikeout to end the threat.
Carlisle put runners on first and second again in the sixth. After a delay to put drying compound on the mound, Patton retired the next two hitters to end the Carlisle rally.
Griffin singled to open the seventh for Blanchester. When the right fielder tried to throw him out at first, his throw went way over the first baseman’s head, allowing Griffin to go to second. He advanced to third on a Jack Davidson groundout.
With two outs in the top of the seventh, after playing through a steady rain for three innings, a single flash of lightning suspended play. After waiting 30 minutes, play was called for the evening.
Lawson said the fact the Wildcats were able to force flyball outs in the rain was a big benefit as field conditions worsened.
“Luckily, a lot of those outs during that time were flyballs,” Lawson said. “We didn’t have to field it and throw it across the diamond. Just catching it is a different thing. We have three very fast outfielders, and we’re going to run down anything that stays in play.”
When the game resumes could impact Blanchester’s plans. It appears as if Bandow will come on to pitch the bottom of the seventh, but if the game is pushed back to Sunday, Rice would be available to pitch again. Neither Blanchester pitcher who threw on Friday would be available on Saturday.
Matt Sexton covers high school sports for the News Journal. Follow him on Twitter @bymattsexton.