TIFFIN — He surrendered just three hits, retired the first nine men he faced and struck out the side in order in the second and fifth innings.
For Van Wert pitcher Lawson Blackmore, Thursday’s virtuoso performance in a 6-1 victory over Lexington in the Division II district semifinals at Tiffin University’s Heminger Field was just another day at the office.
“My arm was feeling great,” Blackmore said. “I couldn’t complain with how the fastball was working so I stuck with that and got the curveball working as well.”
A Miami of Ohio recruit, Blackmore struck out seven of the first nine men he faced. He whiffed at least two batters in each of the first five innings and finished with 12 strikeouts.
“We had some high school at bats against a (Division I) college pitcher,” Lex coach Kevin Morrow said. “That kid is good and … he had a great day.”
Lex starter Ben Vore matched Blackmore pitch-for-pitch for the first two innings before encountering trouble in the third. He gave up a one-out double to Keaton Brown before No. 9 hitter Jalen McCracken knocked in Brown with a single to left. More induced a popup for the second out of the inning before the Minutemen (16-8) committed a pair of costly errors to allow two unearned runs to score.
“Really it could have easily been 2-1 or maybe even 1-1,” Morrow said. “That was kind of tough.”
Lexington finally got to Blackmore in the top of the fourth. Austin Basham led off with a double — Lex’s first hit of the game — and moved to third on a wild pitch. Basham came home on Vore’s one-out sacrifice fly to right.
The Cougars (24-2) put it away with two more unearned runs in the home half of the fourth. McCracken’s fly ball was misplayed for a two-base error, allowing T.J. Reynolds and Brown to score.
Blackmore put an exclamation point on his afternoon when he belted a solo home run to right to lead off the sixth.
“The first two pitches were fastballs on the outside corner,” Blackmore said. “I kind of shortened up a little bit and was just trying to put the ball in play. The next thing I know I got a ball high and inside and I kind of turned on it.”
Lex threatened again in the top of the seventh, but Blackmore induced a game-ending double play with men at first and second.
Van Wert will play Lima Shawnee for the district title at 4 p.m. Saturday at Tiffin University. Shawnee needed 10 innings to dispatch Clear Fork 3-2 in Thursday’s other district semifinal at Kenton.
“We’ve got great positivity going in the dugout,” Blackmore said. “Things are working well for us.”