For the second time this week pitchers dominated the district round of the tournament, this time in Division II as Hamilton Badin’s Nik Copenhaver beat Tipp’s Max Dunaway to win, 1-0.
Pleasant Hill, Ohio – Hamilton Badin assistant coach Bret McKinney pointed them out as they warmed up ahead of Thursday’s Division II District final game with Tipp City. In a clash of No. 1 seeds, the Rams had a handful of Division I college rookies in key positions on the field — notably, their battery.
Wide receiver Jimmy Nugent will play for Penn State next fall. Junior starting pitcher Nik Copenhaver has committed to play in the PAC 12 for Washington State in two years, and left no doubt as to his worth after throwing a 2-hit shutout against the Red Devils, striking out 7 without walking a batter.
Boasting a fastball in the 90s, he simply overpowered Tipp’s hitters, who, with Preston Zumwalt and Matt Salmon at bat at the heart of their order, have shown their ability to catch the No. 1. But not Copenhagen.
“He’s the best pitcher in the Cincinnati area and the toughest pitcher we’ve seen this year,” Tipp’s coach Bryan Gronski said. “We knew what he was going to be like and we tried in training to prepare for that kind of speed, but in a game situation it’s a tough adjustment and we just couldn’t get there.
“We’ve been preaching to guys all year that when we get to the tournament it’s going to be two teams with ace throwers going, and Max (Dunaway) has put us in a position to win. He threw great baseball and allowed only a few hits himself. We just needed more than a few hits in an inning to make some runs. »
Sophomore Dunaway gave Tipp exactly what he needed in a contrast of styles from Copenhagen. He slowed the pace of the game, pitched deliberately, and where Copenhaver blew the ball past the passing lane hitters… Dunaway changed lanes, introduced the change and left Ram hitters guessing and rushing after a 75 mph pitch that just kept moving away and down out of their reach. Badin could only get four hits while Dunaway struck out four and walked a few, but proved that if hitting is timing…he was more than capable of messing up that timing.
Tipp had a few guys on base, but never more than one in an inning. Their two hits belonged to Preston Zumwalt in the first inning … and Matt Salmon in the sixth, both singles. Badin made a few mistakes and Copenhaver hit Braydon Bottles with a pitch in the third inning, but first base was as far as any of them.
The only run of the game came in the fourth. Hamilton left fielder Rodney Rachel started with a single, stole second, advanced to third base on a sack bunt and scored on a ground fly for shortstop Landon Turner. Oddly enough, Rachel didn’t land a good jump from third when the ball was hit, and Turner would have had a chance to throw it home.
Copenhagen reacted as pitchers of his ilk are supposed to react. He’s gotten tougher over the last nine outs.
“I was trying to stay around 80% (speed) today, and just be smooth and efficient.” Copenhagen said next. “I felt like I could have done a lot more runs because my arm didn’t feel anything (fatigue). It was just a good day for all my throws.
But in the top of the seventh, against the No. 6, No. 7 and No. 8 hitters in the Tipp order, he noticeably went up a notch. First baseman DJ Martin appeared weak in right field, and Tyler Minnich and pinch hitter Jacob Bowerman were no match for the closing fastball.
For his part, it was by far the best performance of the year for Max Dunaway. Unfortunately, it happened against the best counter competition he had seen all year.
“It was a really good club…obviously a lot of Divs. I’m committing,” Dunaway said. “I threw a lot of changes, curve balls, tried to keep everything low. mistakes, but we got away with it. The umpire behind the plate was great…it was a good day. We were just on the wrong side.
Badin continues with a record of 23-6, on 1 runs, four hits and has two errors.
Tipp saw his season end without runs, two hits and also had two errors.
“It’s been a good year for us,” Gronski said. “We will lose some seniors who will be hard to replace, but we also had the opportunity to bring some youngsters in…and I loved the way Max kicked today because it’s a good way to approach next year. You like your pitcher sometimes working quickly to control the tempo of the game.
“But sometimes you can control the tempo by slowing it down, messing up their timing, and he did a good job today. His change was dynamite today. We needed him to piece it all back together today, and he did.