Licking Heights Hornets baseball players vault Stingers after athletics
NEWARK — 16U Athletics hoped Ben Pennington would be retired to a field near the top of the strike zone on Saturday. The Licking Heights senior then sent the next pitch into the left center gap.
Pennington’s two-run brace in the top of the sixth inning gave the 16U/17U Ohio Stingers a 4-1 win over the A’s in the Can of Corn Prospect Tournament at Joe Neff Field in Newark.
“I struggled pretty much all year,” Pennington said. “Bringing up a few balls felt good.”
The victory helped send the Heights-based Stingers to the semifinals against the Columbus Cobras Jenkins 17U at 9 a.m. Sunday in Denison. The Stingers lost 9-8 to the Cobras later Saturday, but won a rematch against the top seed after going 2-1-1 in pool.
Heights senior Tyler Von Bargen threw a hit against the A’s, striking out 11. He also had an RBI single to give the Stingers the lead in the third and opened the sixth with a double before Mason Ewald de Gahanna is only ahead of Pennington. clutch kick.
“We’re staying focused, keeping our eyes on the prize and working through the school season,” Von Bargen said. “It was a pretty big game for me. I just got my momentum back because I got injured during the school ball.”
Colts Elite Boroff 17U, which is led by four Johnstown players, takes on the Grove City Titans in the second semifinal at 11:30 a.m. Sunday in Denison with the championship to follow.
The A’s had hoped to get in on the action for a semi-final berth in the 15-team event, but they were never able to get the hit on Saturday. They went 0 for 7 with runners in scoring position, finishing 1-2-1 against mostly older competitors.
“It’s baseball. It’s a whirlwind up and down,” A’s coach Daniel Pettit said. “We just didn’t hit this weekend as well as we should have. … The 17U division we’re in has some talented teams. and losses, as much as it’s about building the high school programs in the county and surrounding areas that we have.”
Newark Catholic elder Braylon Bates nearly wriggled out of a jam early in the first inning for the A’s, striking out three straight batters around a wild pitch.
Von Bargen allowed his only run when a two-out strikeout went to the safety net.
“They haven’t really had any hits from me this inning,” Von Bargen said. “I just had to keep throwing and see what happened.”
Newark junior Thomas Olon had both hits for the A’s, and Bates struck out 10. In Friday’s 7-5 win over Redstorm 17U, Heath’s Riley Baum and NC’s Owen Helms scored two hits and two runs scored apiece, and Sheridan’s Ryan Kuhn had one hit and two RBIs, supporting New Lexington’s Olon and Garrett Blosser on the mound.
The A’s are looking forward to fighting in the 16U division of the upcoming Buckeye Elite. They recently took fifth place in the 32-team Cincy Flames Summer Classic.
“Progression is key,” said Pettit, the president of the Athletics Baseball Association, who has coached this team since the players were 10 years old. “I’ve plugged them in and play where they do for their high school teams, but we have a bit of selflessness on the team where they’ll play wherever I ask them. It’s a great group of kids.”
Heights’ Tyler Lopinto and Kaleb Ribbing and Central Crossing’s Elisha Jackson also had two hits apiece for the Stingers against the A’s.
The Stingers, who have nine Hornets on the roster, end their summer in West Palm Beach, Fla. later this month.
“It helps with team chemistry and you get to know each other a little bit more outside of school,” Pennington said. “Just playing in the summer helps create a bit more camaraderie.”