Nick Osborne

Hickory High’s Nick Osborne delivers a pitch to the plate last spring.

HERMITAGE – Greg Evans enjoys the luxury of a deep pitching staff, which is why his Hermitage-I squad will play for a championship.

Nick Osborne overwhelmed Lakeview Friday night. Hermitage-I parlayed his complete-game pitching performance for 3-1 win in the Tri-County Summer High School Baseball League Gold Division winner’s bracket final.

Hermitage-I will host the survivor of a trio of teams from the loser’s bracket in the double-elimination tournament. The title tilt will be noon Sunday at Hickory High. If a 2nd game is necessary it would be played around 5 p.m.

The slender, right- handed Osborne only required 88 pitches (53 strikes) in outlasting Lakeview. He actually hit more batters with pitches (2) than he allowed hits (1). Using a fastball-slider mix he struck out 7 and did not yield a base on balls. In real time, the game lasted only 105 minutes. He retired Lakeview on just 6 pitches in the 7th stanza.

“He was a ‘horse,’ absolutely,” Head Coach Evans said in praise of Osborne. “I tell the kids pitching and defense has been our theme the entire year, and it was no different (Friday).

“Nick was outstanding. We knew it was going to be battle. (Lakeview) is a very good team, well-coached, and we knew he had to be spot-on for us to beat them. And he was. He spotted his fastball, he spotted his slider, made a lot of great pitches even when he got behind in the count, and I expect that from him,” Evans added. 

Hermitage-I (15-1-1) scored singletons in the 1st, 2nd and 5th frames. Joey Fazzone’s run-scoring single plated Sully Brown in the 1st; Nate Boal’s 2-out triple to right-center set up the 2nd stanza run as he eventually scored on a wild pitch, and Clay Wiesen’s RBI-single scored Matt Jordan in the 5th. Jordan, who reached base in all 3 at-bats, drew a leadoff walk, stole 2nd, and was sacrificed to 3rd by Brown.

Trailing 2-0 in the 3rd inning, Lakeview’s lone opportunity was lost with the tying run on base.

Kyle Uber reached on a 2-out infield single and Nate McIntire drew a walk. A passed ball and throwing error enabled Uber to score. However sweet-swinging southpaw slugger Brett Beith’s liner was speared by Hermitage 2nd-sacker Brown.

Osborne weathered that 19-pitch inning, then his pitch-count diminished over the final 4 frames. He retired the last 13 hitters he faced, in order.

“That’s why he was in this game. We held him out to pitch this game specifically, and he did the job for us,” Evans praised. “Unfortunately, Nick’s done for the week on the mound (owing to the league’s 10-inning/week limit), but we still have Joey Fazzone and Zach Lordo on Sunday going for us, so we’re in the driver’s seat. Fortunately for us somebody’s going to have to beat us twice and we get ‘em both at home, so we have a lot of arms left, a lot of innings left.

“We have a deep staff, and we’re very well-positioned for Sunday,” Evans added.

Grove City-I, Ellwood City and Union Twp. are the surviving squads attempting to battle out of the loser’s bracket. Each has 1 loss. Union Twp. dealt Hermitage-I its lone loss this season, which was avenged in this postseason tourney’s 2nd round.

“All very good teams, and any of ‘em could come out of that bracket,” Evans assessed. “I just hope we’re ready to play on Sunday, and we know it’ll be a very high-quality opponent.”

Notes: Southpaw Teddy Shillito started for Lakeview (9-8). In 5 frames (71 pitches, 40 for strikes) he permitted just a half-dozen hits, whiffed 1 and walked 3. ... Osborne aided his own cause, ripping a 1-out double to right-center in the 3rd. Lordo lent a base hit, and Jordan joined in with a solid single on Shillito’s 1st pitch of the game and a pair of walks. Jordan, Brown, Wiesen and Lordo pilfered bases. ... Young backstop Brandon Boyles called a solid game while working with Osborne. ... Two of the county’s best, Jim Hart and Jack Thorn, worked behind the plate and on the bases, respectively.