SHELBY — When Jon Amicone popped out of the dugout and headed to the mound Friday afternoon, Shelby’s veteran skipper knew he was in for a fight.
That’s just the type of competitor Blaise Caudill is. The hard-throwing right-hander didn't want to come out of the game.
The Richland Bank Athlete of the Week, Caudill helped the Whippets reach this week’s Division II Sandusky district tournament with a virtuoso performance in last week’s sectional championship win over defending district champ Ontario. The junior pitched 6.2 innings and keyed Shelby’s four-run sixth inning with a two-run double.
The only thing Caudill didn’t do is get the complete game. He was lifted with the bases loaded and two outs in the seventh in favor of closer Zack Hartz, who induced a game-ending groundout to preserve the victory.
“Everybody knows I wanted to finish that game, but Zack came in and did what he had to do,” Caudill said. “I’m very happy for him.”
Amicone stayed with Caudill as long as he could. Caudill gave up a leadoff single in the seventh before recording two quick outs. He walked Ontario’s Andrew Cacchio with the bases loaded to give up one run before Caden Armstrong’s swinging-bunt single drove in another, prompting the pitching change.
“Obviously, Blaise wanted the ball and he had gotten us that far, so I was going to give him every opportunity to finish the game,” Amicone said. “He’s been our guy and you need your guys to step up in the biggest game of the year.
“In the biggest game of the year, Blaise Caudill showed what type of teammate he is and he showed what type of competitor he is.”
The win was the sixth of the season for Caudill, who was recently selected to the Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference second team. He came into Friday’s game with a 1.98 earned run average and 41 strikeouts.
While he was in command on the hill against Ontario, Caudill struggled at the plate. He struck out in his first three plate appearances, but lined a 2-0 fastball down the right field line for a two-run double with two out in the sixth.
“I was struggling at the plate. I just wasn’t seeing the ball real well,” Caudill said. “It was a 2-0 count and I was expecting a fastball and that’s what he threw.”
Next up for Caudill and the fifth-seeded Whippets is a district semifinal date with No. 3 Norwalk at 4 p.m. Thursday at Sports Force Parks in Sandusky. The Whippets last reached the district tournament in 2015, falling to Bellevue in the district finals.
“To get to the district tournament means a lot,” Caudill said. “We’ve got a lot of young players here. We got a lot of juniors and only two seniors. I think we have good momentum going in and we’re excited.”