MASON, Ohio -- The Mason baseball team is going to the state tournament for the first time since 1987.
"It's really, really special," Mason coach Curt Bly said. "I couldn't ask for a better group of guys to do it with."
The Comets defeated Moeller 3-2 Friday night in a Division I regional final at the University of Cincinnati's Marge Schott Stadium.
Mason (26-5), winners of 10 consecutive games will play Anthony Wayne (25-4) in a Division I state semifinal at 1 p.m. June 1 at Huntington Park in Columbus, and they couldn't be more thrilled by the opportunity.
"They are just a group of kids who love each other first and foremost and love the game second and believe in each other," Bly said. "I don't think there was a doubt in their mind that they were going to do this today."
Mason scored three runs in the first two innings, and senior left-handed pitcher Rollie Sheriff allowed just four hits in five innings to lift the team. Senior Nick Northcut struck out four in two innings of relief for the Comets.
"You don't get to dogpile too often," Northcut said about the celebration. "This summer, I was lucky and blessed to be able to do it with the (summer) team I played with four times. Doing it with the guys you grew up with is something real special."
Mason has been close to a state tournament appearance in recent years but saw its season finish after losses to Moeller in 2014 and 2015. Friday was the first time the two teams had played each other since the 2017 season opener.
"Growing up in Mason and staying in Mason, that's what you want to say: 'Went to state and beat Moeller.' It's just a great feeling," said Sheriff, who had four strikeouts and improved to 8-1.
Mason scored in the top of the first inning after senior Evan Haas drove in junior Joe Powell with an RBI single to left to make it 1-0.
The Comets added two additional runs in the second inning. Sophomore Harrison Johnson hit a solo home run over the right-field fence on a 2-0 pitch to give Mason a 2-0 lead. The ball landed in the construction zone near Fifth Third Arena.
"It's great; we made history today," Johnson said. "We all have the same goal."
Later in the second, senior Ben Kraus reached on an infield hit. He later scored when Northcut hit a sacrifice fly to right to make it 3-0.
Moeller cut into the deficit in the bottom of the fourth. Senior Taylor Hopkins had a one-out hit as Moeller broke Mason's no-hit bid.
Hopkins scored off junior Ryan Galanie's single to right to make it 3-1.
Then, senior Mo Schaffer's RBI single to left scored Galanie to make it 3-2.
Northcut, one of the nation's top players in the 2018 class, took the pitcher's mound in the bottom of the sixth after playing third base.
"There is probably nobody in the city I wouldn't want to see on the mound the last two innings with the guys he's pitched against and played against the past few summers," Moeller coach Tim Held said. "I don't want to face him."
Northcut walked the first batter but got two strikeouts and a ground out to end the inning. He had two strikeouts in the seventh and got a ground out to end the game.
"He's our guy," Bly said. "At that point it's like who else am I going to hand the ball to? Rollie did a tremendous job. Five innings of really keeping them off balance. We got the lead and he made it hold up. At that point, we are going to live and die with Nick Northcut. For four years, he's been a transcendent player for this program. This a signature moment for him and certainly for us as a whole team."
Northcut said the regional title was his biggest accomplishment of his young career thus far. He and his teammates want to complete the journey next weekend in Columbus.
"This is something you don't get to do everyday on a baseball field," Northcut said. "There is a lot of players in this country that get to play high school baseball but not many of them get to go to state. It's something that is once in a lifetime and I am glad I get to spend it with these guys here."