By John Lachmann
ERLANGER, Ky. – Dixie Heights was one of Northern Kentucky’s top offensive teams this regular season, and the Colonels put their hitting on display in their postseason opener.
Dixie Heights scored runs in the first five innings en route to topping Ludlow, 12-3 in a District 34 semifinal at Lloyd on Tuesday to earn a spot in next week’s Region 9 Tournament.
The Colonels averaged 6.8 runs during prior to the playoffs, and they responded after allowing a run in the second and third innings.
“They’ve been doing that all year,” Maxwell said. “It seems like every time a team scores a run we come back and answer them. It’s been like that all year long, so I’m pretty proud of (our team) in that respect.”
With two outs in the bottom of the first, senior Seth Caple singled off the Ludlow pitcher’s foot and senior right-hander Nick King followed with an RBI double to the right center field fence.
King issued consecutive walks to start the second, and a throw to third on an ensuing bunt pulled the fielder off the bag, loading the bases with no outs. Panthers sophomore first baseman Matthew Gibson singled in one to cut the lead to one.
But on a bizarre play, freshman shortstop T.C. Eads bounced back to the mound, and King went home for the force out. The runner on second held up for some reason, and Caple fired to third to retire him.
Senior third baseman Adam Daria then fired to first to nail Eads, who had wandered off first base to complete a triple play.
“We scored a run right away and we scored five in that next inning so I think it picked us up quite a bit,” Maxwell said. “We were struggling a little bit with our pitcher on the mound, so to put it out of reach was big.”
Junior second baseman Royce McGee made it 3-1 with a single in the bottom of the second inning, but Ludlow loaded the bases and senior third baseman Jerad Howard walked in a run to make it 3-2.
But Dixie Heights struck for five runs in the bottom of the third. After a ground out and a walk, the next four Colonels managed hits, and after a pitching change, Colonels junior shortstop Ethan Harrison singled home two as Dixie Heights sent 12 batters to the plate.
Junior left fielder Chris Ruedebusch doubled home two in the bottom of the fourth to key a three-run inning for the Colonels that made it 11-3.
King was lifted after four innings. He allowed just three hits but walked seven and surrendered three earned runs.
Enter junior right-hander Nick Niehaus, who fired three scoreless innings to pick up the save.
Dixie Heights will face St. Henry in the district championship game at 5 p.m. on Wednesday.
The Colonels clinched a spot in next week’s Region 9 tournament in Florence. King, who walked seven, should start in the regional opener on Memorial Day.
“Everybody’s got an ace they can throw out there in that first game,” Maxwell said. “I feel pretty good in that respect – if Nick can bounce back and have a good game on Monday and we happen to win, I feel pretty good with our pitching staff.”
LUDLOW 011-100-0—3 6 2
D.HEIGHTS 215-310-X—12 12 2
WP: King (7-0). LP: Slone. SV: Niehaus. HITTING LEADERS: DH—Harrison 2-3, 3 RBI; King 2-3, 2B; Wehrle 2B, 2 RBI; Hicks 2-3, 2B; Ruedebusch 2-3, 2B, 3 RBI. RECORDS: Dixie Heights 27-3, Ludlow 15-10.