Division III State Preview



By Dylan Hefflinger

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DIVISION III

No. 3 Wheelersburg (28-2) vs. No. 21 Fredericktown (23-4) 10 a.m. Friday

No. 3 Wheelersburg returns to state for the fourth time in five years, with its best result coming in 2010 as runners-up. The Pirates won a state title in 1996. The Pirates shut out No. 19 Piketon 3-0 before winning a thriller over No. 15 St. Clairsville 10-9 to win the Regional championship. Wheelersburg came from behind to defeat Lynchburg-Clay 6-5, scoring three runs in the final two innings in the district finals. Wheelersburg has shut out their opponent 17 times this season, three during the tournament run. Wheelersburg is led by Dayton recruit Austin Hall, junior Derek Moore and Austin Boyer, who were all first team all-district.

No. 21 Fredericktown is going to state for the first time in school history. The Freddies defeated No. 11 Cincinnati Madeira 4-3 before capturing a Regional championship over No. 20 Hamilton Badin 6-4. Fredericktown defeated Columbus Academy in the District semis 6-5 before shutting out Galion Northmor 2-0 in the Central 2 District finals. Fredericktown is led by junior Matt Smith. The three-time all-Ohio selection, Smith leads the Freddies, which finished second to Utica in the Mid-Buckeye Conference this season. The junior center fielder, a football standout who has rushed for more than 3,000 career yards and 34 TDs, hit .551 with 10 home runs as a freshman and .592 as a sophomore. Smith, junior Nash Cunningham and Mitch Sellers all hitting .465 or better and have 30 or more stolen bases on the season for the Freddies, which stole six bases in the win over Madeira. Cunningham also has 10 wins on the mound. Smith is being recruited by the likes of Ohio State, Cincinnati and Central Florida while Cunningham is also a D-I recruit for the Freddies.

No. 2 Orwell Grand Valley (30-1) vs. No. 18 Lima Central Catholic (21-8) 1 p.m. Friday

No. 2 Grand Valley makes its first state appearance in school history, having been cruising along all season as Coach Russ Bell's team won the Northeastern Athletic Conference. The Mustangs had scored 10 or more runs in 23 of their 31 games, totaling 362 runs, while only allowing 76. Grand Valley defeated Orrville 7-4 before outslugging Youngstown Ursuline 12-11 to capture the Regional championship. The Mustangs edged Warren Champion in the semis and Gates Mills Hawken to win the Euclid District by 5-4 scores. Mitchell Lake is the leader for the Mustangs with a .574 batting average, 44 RBI and 24 extra-base hits, including six home runs. Lake is 7-0 on the mound. Adam Moodt is the Mustangs number two with a 6-1 record, while batting .483 with 41 RBI.  Other top hitters are Stanley Sirrine (.553) and A.J. Henson (.475).

No. 18 LCC has just three seniors on the roster but is headed to state for just the second time in school history. The T-Birds, which went previously in 1997, have never won a game at state. LCC defeated No. 23 Milan Edison 4-2 before winning 1-0 over No. 10 Carroll Bloom-Carroll to claim the Regional crown. Junior right-hander Nick Watkins threw a four-hit shutout vs. Bloom-Carroll to improve to 6-2 on the season. Sophomore shortstop Colin Stolly and junior catcher Connor Dee are hitting better than .400 for LCC. The seniors are third baseman Bill Taflinger, outfielder Kian Duffy and Travis Clark, who tossed a six-hitter allowing one earned run against Edison. Clark, a Siena Heights recruit, has an 8-1 record with a 2.00 ERA.