It took almost four days, but they are finally celebrating in Sunbury.
Big Walnut, defeating Franklin Heights 11-3 Monday afternoon in the completion of last Friday’s suspended game, clinched the outright Ohio Capital Conference Capital Division baseball championship … the Golden Eagles’ first baseball title in 39 seasons.
Capital Division rival Delaware Hayes opened the door for 11th-ranked (Division II) Big Walnut (21-5, 12-2 OCC) as the Pacers shut out host Olentangy Orange (21-3,11-3 OCC) 2-0 in the completion of their suspended game Monday on the Pioneers’ home diamond.
Big Walnut and Orange, which split their two regular-season OCC contests, went in to Monday’s game deadlocked for the Capital Division lead with 11-2 records. After a 1-2 start in OCC play, the Golden Eagles went on to win their last 11 conference contests.
“This is a great moment for our program,” second-year Golden Eagle head coach Chris Holly said. “Our players kept their focus throughout the season. They had a goal and they went out and achieved it … they deserve all the credit in the world.’
Big Walnut’s last conference championship in baseball came in 1973 when the Golden Eagles captured the now-defunct Mid-Ohio Conference (MOC) flag. BW joined the OCC in the beginning of the 1997-98 academic school year.
Play resumed Monday in the bottom of the fourth inning with Big Walnut holding a 10-1 lead after the Golden Eagles had posted consecutive 6- and 4-run frames to take a commanding lead.
“That was huge for us to come back with a 9-run lead,” Holly said. “We had some good at bats in key situations.”
Big Walnut scored six runs in the second with no one on and two outs, loading the bases as Todd Tarney and Aaron Shaw drew walks around Seth Wandling, who was hit by a pitch. Grant Beam followed with a bases-clearing triple to the base of the right field fence and came home on a wild pitch. Tyler Beam followed by beating out a bunt down the third-base line, stealing second and scoring on an Aaron Dattilo single. Dattilo, who moved to second on a balk, stole third and scored on catcher Austin Kirk’s throwing error.
The Golden Eagles tacked on four runs in the third to make it 10-0 as Grant Beam delivered a two-out, two-run single and Tyler Beam, who drew a walk and moved to second on the balk, crossed home plate on Ben Romer’s single into center field.
Franklin Heights (1-24, 0-14 OCC) came back to Sunbury ready to play. After Golden Falcon reliever Joey Blankenship set the Golden Eagles down in order in the fourth, Heights scored twice in the top of the fifth on a walk, a passed ball, a Joe Toth single and Mitch Kitzinger’s sacrifice fly off starter Aaron Gase to cut the deficit to 10-3.
“Franklin Heights came back ready to play,” Holly said. “They battled over the last two-plus innings.”
The Golden Eagles answered with a run in the bottom of the fifth on Tyler Beam’s two-out single, a balk and Aaron Dattilo’s triple off the right-center field fence to plate Beam for the 11-3 final.
Big Walnut collected nine hits for the game, led by Tyler Beam, who was 3-for-3 with a walk and three runs scored. Grant Beam was 2-for-4 with a triple, two runs and five runs batted in while Dattilo was 2-for-2, reaching base four times on a triple, a single, a walk and being hit by a pitch while driving in a pair of runs.
Following a 30-minute lightning delay to start the seventh inning, Cole Harbin came on in relief of Gase and set the Golden Falcons down in order on 10 pitches … and the celebration was underway.
“We wanted both Aaron (Gase) and Cole to get some work in today in preparation for the postseason district tournament.” Holly said. “Both came back and threw well today.”
Gase, in his six innings of work, allowed all three runs, one earned, on two hits and thee bases on balls. He struck out 10. Harbin fanned one in his inning of work
Big Walnut opens Division II Central District play Thursday as the third-seeded Golden Eagles take on the winner of today’s first-round game between Columbus Centennial and River Valley.