Derrick Webb, Staff Writer
WAVERLY — Cam DeBord admits that, with one out and two on in the bottom of Thursday’s seventh inning, he felt the nerves with the ball in his hand.
But from any other seat in the stands, DeBord looked as poised as he’s ever been.
Unioto’s southpaw ace reared back and recorded his 10th strikeout for the second out of the inning before facing Waverly leadoff hitter LT Jordan.
And that’s when DeBord’s centerfielder Micah Geise took a final bow.
After Geise had given the Shermans (23-5) a one-run lead in the top of the seventh with an RBI single, the sophomore came crashing in from his position to snag a dying line drive that would’ve tied the game.
Those two dramatic moments were the centerpiece of a 2-1 victory over Waverly in a heavyweight Division II sectional title bout — the Shermans’ 26th sectional crown.
“I was just thinking ‘Catch it, catch it, catch it.’ I thought it was going to fall for a second there,” Unioto coach Tony Taylor said of the final play. “But [Geise] tracked it down and made the catch. It was awesome. You know, we lost nine seniors last year that didn’t get to play and six or seven of those were starters. So we’re starting five sophomores and two freshmen this year. They’ve all worked well. They’ve bought in, they’ve contributed and they’re all good teammates.”
DeBord and Waverly pitcher Alex Boles went toe-to-toe for the better part of seven innings.
The Tigers (23-5) graced the scoreboard in the second inning when Jase Hurd doubled down the left field line to knock in Weston Roop for a 1-0 lead.
Things would stay that way until the top of the fifth when a fielding error allowed Unioto’s Andrew Griffin to cross home plate and tie the game.
Then, in the seventh, Griffin singled before Landyn Patterson was hit by a pitch. Griffin then stole third, signalling the end of Boles’ night on the mound, before Geise stepped to the dish.
On a 1-2 offering, Geise sent a pitch screaming into center field to score Griffin and give Unioto its first and last lead of the night.
“This is a huge win for us, especially beating Waverly,” Geise said. “They’re a great team and Alex is a great pitcher. He pitched really well against us. We really had to hang in there and fight. That’s what we did in the last inning. We came through.”
Roop, who came on in place for Boles, then worked out of trouble. With two on the base paths, the senior struck out the next hitter he faced before inducing back-to-back ground balls.
That gave the Tigers a chance and Ben Flanders took advantage of the opportunity in the bottom half of the inning, working a six-pitch walk to begin the frame. After a fielder’s choice gavae the Shermans their first out, DeBord walked Hurd on four straight pitches.
That’s when those nerves came into play.
But the veteran captain regained his composure, took a deep breath and retired the next two hitters.
“I don’t think he lets anything bother him,” Taylor said. “He bulldogged it out. [Waverly] had some opportunities and he didn’t get upset or excited. He just got the outs when he needed to.”
In his seven innings of work, DeBord didn’t allow an earned run on four hits, walked two and struck out 10. Meanwhile, Griffin paced the Shermans’ offense, going 2-for-3 with a double and two runs while Geise was 2-for-3 with an RBI. Braxton Platt had the other Shermans’ hit.
Boles’ final pitching line included six innings of four-hit baseball. He allowed a single earned run, talked two and whiffed six. He was aided offensively by Hurd, who was 1-for-2 with a double and an RBI. Boles, JT Barnett and Derek Eblin logged the Tigers’ other three hits.
Unioto will now travel to Miami Trace on Monday for a district semifinal meeting. The Panthers are the state’s top-ranked team in Division II and have already beaten the Shermans once this year — a 9-3 final on May 13 that was closer than the final score shows.
“They’re the number one team in the state,” Taylor said. “We had them last week and were up 3-2 in the sixth inning. We just didn’t make some plays and we blew up. So we have to make plays and play better than we did tonight. It’s that simple.”