Patient Spartans score twice in sixth inning, capture district title
Patience pays off — especially in the game of baseball.
South Warren may have played from behind for five-and-a-half innings on Thursday evening, but it didn’t get rattled. It instead kept battling, was as patient as a team could possibly be, and remained calm inning by inning.
That patience eventually paid off — and in a huge way — as the Spartans turned a lengthy 1-0 deficit into a hard fought, drowned out 2-1 win over Bowling Green in the District 14 championship at their own South Warren Ballpark. It marked South Warren’s first district title since 2016 and third overall.
- South Warren coach Chris Gage interview
- South Warren shortstop Drew Gregory interview
- South Warren closer Clay Nohel interview
“We were patient. Maybe a little bit too patient,” South Warren coach Chris Gage said. “The pressure on both teams — postseason pressure is different — and you can’t always rely on your offense. You’ve gotta come up big in those spots and keep executing situations even when the pressure is on. Luckily, a couple guys bailed us out.”
Trailing by a single run entering the bottom of the sixth inning, South Warren (24-11) finally found its breakthrough — mostly because of the dominant play of Drew Gregory in the frame.
The Spartans’ senior shortstop, batting with a runner on first base and no outs, came up clutch. Seeing a pitch he wanted coming his way, Gregory unloaded and delivered a strike into deep left field to score Tyler Martin and evened the scoreboard at 1-1.
Just three batters later, Gregory came up big yet again. Standing on third, he saw Bowling Green pitcher Trevor Dennis balk and was able to steal home and cross the plate while much was happening behind the mound, giving South Warren a 2-1 lead — their first of the contest.
“It was actually just a straight steal and Trent (Rice) left (first) a little early,” Gregory said. I guess it rattled (Dennis) a little bit so he turned and he balked — and I just kept going. We had good at-bats the whole game. Our defense was there, our pitching was awesome.
“We knew it was just a matter of time.”
While Gregory’s play was very significant, the pitching outing by two different Spartans — especially closer Clay Nohel — was the difference in the outcome.
After Zack Beckner started and allowed one run with six hits and three strikeouts in 5.1 innings, Nohel entered in the top of the sixth and helped SWHS keep the Purples (18-11) from scoring anymore runs.
Nohel — who was credited with the win — tossed three strikeouts and didn’t allow a single hit or run in 1.2 innings of work.
“It was very nerve-racking,” Nohel said. “But that was a very fun ball game. We definitely had to adapt, and our pitchers stepped up. Zack threw a very good game — and that really won us the game.”
The two sides played two-and-a-half scoreless innings before Bowling Green put the first run on the board in the top of the third.
Behind a pair of two-out singles, an error and a walk, the Purples broke through and took a 1-0 lead. Jay Buser began the two-out rally with a single, and Will Garske followed up with one of his own.
With Joe Howard at the plate next, he made contact on a pitch and hit a groundball into the middle of first and second. As South Warren second baseman Sam Gage bobbled the ball, Howard reached and Buser was able to score from third to put Bowling Green in front.
“We weren’t very good offensively,” Bowling Green coach Matt Myers said. “Beckner did a good job. We had chances. We were very over-aggressive early. It was almost like we didn’t keep our composure. We’ll be better and OK for the (Region 4) Tournament.”
The Purples out-hit South Warren, 6-4, but two errors plagued BGHS. Charlie Key started on the mound and threw four strikeouts with three hits in 4.1 innings.
South Warren finally strung together an offensive rhythm in the bottom of the fifth.
After Mason Day was walked and Caleb Lloyd singled into centerfield, Key then walked Nohel to load the bases for the Spartans with just one out and triggered a pitching change for the Purples.
Max Payne, who replaced Key on the bump, quickly retired the next two batters with a pop out and fly out to help Bowling Green escape the jam and maintain its one-run advantage.
“Charlie Key had an amazing start. He did everything I asked him to do and deserved better fortune there,” Myers said.
It may have not come in the previous frame, but the Spartans’ answer took place in the sixth.
Martin led off by reaching on an error, and that brought Gregory to the plate. After going 0-2 in his first two at-bats of the night, Gregory laid down a perfect hit into left and plated Martin to even things at 1-1.
Following Gregory’s clutch hit, and another BG pitching change that put Dennis in, Gregory came up big again. While the Spartans forced Dennis to balk, Gregory saw he had an opportunity and thus sneaked from third to home and gave South Warren its first lead at 2-1 entering the seventh.
“It was just a senior coming up big,” Gage said of Gregory. “We had been hitting the ball in the air too much during the game. So, by putting the ball on the ground, we get on base. They gave him a high fastball, and he ripped it.”
Trailing by a run and trying to score in order to extend the game, Bowling Green went down in order in its final at-bat — which was ended with a strikeout from Nohel — and suffered a tough loss.
“The pressure’s there, but you’ve just gotta push it to the side,” Nohel said. “That was just amazing. Great feeling.”
South Warren and Bowling Green now switch gears to the Region 4 Tournament, which begins Monday at WKU’s Nick Denes Field. The draw is scheduled for Saturday morning at WKU.
“Our confidence level right now is probably at an all-time high, especially winning a game in this fashion,” said Gregory. “We’ve played good for the most part all year. Confidence is definitely up there.”
BGHS – 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 – 1 6 2
SWHS – 0 0 0 0 0 2 X – 2 4 1
WP: Nohel. LP: Dennis.