By Ben Robinson
RUSSIA — Covington coach Mitch Hirsch has been saying all year that his team could beat anybody - if the kids played to their potential.
Wednesday night the Buccaneers played to their potential for the first time all season and the result was a stunning 14-7 win over second seed Russia in the second round of the sectional tournament.
Covington will play the Lehman-Mecanicsburg winner at 5 p.m. Wednesday at Hardman Field in Piqua.
“We’ve been stressing that all year, if we play baseball the way we are capable of we can beat anybody,” said Hirsch. “Sometimes I wonder if the kids believe me, but tonight you saw it. We played our best game of the year from start to finish and look what happened.”
What happened is Covington beat a very good team, the same team who dominated the Buccs earlier in the season in two games of a double-header on the same field.
The score of those two games were 7-2 and 19-11 in favor of Russia.
“They are a very good team that hits the ball as well as anybody,” Hirsch said. “They are fundamentally sound and very well coached.”
Covington jumped on Russia early, scoring four runs in the top of the first.
But Russia tied the score at 4-2 run two runs in the first and two in the second, forcing Hirsch to make a gutsy move by pulling starter Ty Boehringer in favor of Justin Williams, who struggled on Monday in four innings of work against Botkins.
“When I had to go get Ty in the second, I was worried because I didn’t know how long Justin could go,” Hirsch explained. “I also knew I couldn’t go with Austin (Lefeld) because he threw eight innings on Monday.”
Hirsch’s worries never completely dissipated, but seeing his team put up five runs in the fourth and five more in the fifth to push the Covington lead to 14-5 helped matters.
Plus, he got a gutty effort from Williams and the Buccaneer defense as Covington held Russia to just three runs over the final five innings.
“Justin just dug down deep and pulled through,” said Hirsch. “We got into some jams at times, but you could tell that there was no way he wanted to come out of the game.”
One of the jams Covington found itself in was in the bottom of the sixth as Russia had runners at first and third with no outs. Austin Lefeld fielded a ground ball at short and threw to Drew Schaurer at second, who immediately turned the double play.
Russia scored the run from third on the play, but Williams struck out the next batter to retain the momentum Covington had worked so hard for.
“That was a big defensive play by Austin and Drew turning the double play,” Hirsch said. “If they score three or four runs that inning it’s a different ball game.”
With darkness approaching, Covington committed its only error of the game in the bottom of the seventh.
It ultimately resulted in a Russia run, but the Buccs were able to prevent a Raider comeback by recording the final three outs to end matters.
In all, Covington tallied 14 hits on the night, while surrendering just six to a powerful Russia lineup.
Williams recorded the win as he threw five and one-thirds and recorded eight strikeouts.
Jacob Albright and Drew Schaurer drove in four runs each, while Williams helped out his cause with a pair of hits that drove in two runs.
Nathan Blei and Austin Lefeld were both 2-for-4.
“Covington played a very aggressive game tonight — they were aggressive at the plate and on the bases,” Russia coach Rick Gold said.“Our pitchers had trouble finding the strike zone, walking 11 vs striking out only five.
“We got behind in the count, couldn’t find the plate with our breaking pitches, and when we had to come in with a fastball, it went out a lot faster than it came in.
“Meanwhile, Justin Williams came in relief and threw well — striking out eight in five innings.”
Zack Sherman was 2-for-4 with three RBI, while Nolan Francis was 2-for-5 with two RBI for Russia, 19-4.
The Raiders will play Houston today in a Shelby County League makeup game.