Brock Netter, Staff Writer
CHILLICOTHE — Wheelersburg’s Ethan Ison was celebrating his 18th birthday all day, but he saved his best present for last.
Ison threw a six-inning gem, allowing just two hits on the evening as he led the Pirates (22-7) to an 8-0 victory over Eastern Brown (20-7) and a Division III district championship on Wednesday at VA Memorial Stadium.
“Just an incredible outing from Ethan, and even more impressive that he did it on short rest,” Wheelersburg coach Derek Moore said. “But he was lights out on the biggest stage of our season to date. This game is credit to our seniors as well. When we showed up today for batting practice, not much was said by us coaches. It was all of them talking and getting our guys ready, and they came ready to play.”
While Ison was dominant on the mound and struck out 10 batters on the day, he had just as big of a day at the plate by going 1-for-2 with a triple and two RBIs.
“My fastball was working through four innings, then I started switching to my curveball to throw off [Eastern Brown’s] timing,” Ison said. “My defense was backing me up the entire time so any time I didn’t throw a strike, they made the play. On that triple, I saw a fastball coming at me so I swung as hard as I could and it went as far as it wanted to.”
The Pirates made a point to jump ahead early and got out to a 1-0 lead after a sacrifice fly from Cooper McKenzie. They added another run the next inning on a fielder’s choice with the bases loaded.
Ison decided to get in on the fun in the bottom of the third, ripping his RBI triple to center field and extending the lead to 3-0.
He went back to work on the mound in the fourth and fifth, nailing down his 10th strikeout and all but putting the game away.
“We got a silver medal after losing the district final two years ago, and I told the guys who were a part of that team to hang that medal where you’ll see it everyday,” Moore said. “We’re not used to getting silver at Wheelersburg, we get the gold. I think it’s been a huge factor and part of the success we’ve had this season was using that as motivation.”
The Pirates went on to score two more runs on an RBI triple from Braden Harr and an RBI single by Mason Montgomery. Ison then added a sacrifice fly, later followed by a two-run single from McKenzie to put the game on ice and bring a title back to ‘Burg.
“I saw the ball pretty well and I was hitting it in the middle,” McKenzie said. “Coach Hall kept telling me to work the middle of the field and I made an adjustment to find the open gaps.”
McKenzie finished 1-for-2 with three RBIs, Montgomery was 2-for-3 with an RBI and Harr went 1-for-3 with a triple and an RBI.
Wheelersburg advances to a Division III regional semifinal at 1:30 p.m, June 3 at VA Memorial Stadium. The Pirates’ opponent will be a familiar one … Minford, whom they’ve lost to twice this season in SOC II action.
“We played two great ball games against them, but also suffered two losses,” Moore said. “We have to hit the ball to all parts of the field off of Elijah [Vogelsong]. He hasn’t given up many runs all year, and they don’t come often against him. If we can get a few of them early, we’ll have a good shot. But we have to play really clean baseball.”
NOTE: SOSA will have a photo gallery from the Pirates’ win later this evening.