Frontier’s season comes to an end

CAMBRIDGE – Frontier High’s bats were silenced – again.

The seventh-seeded Cougars went hitless for the second straight game, dropping a 2-0 decision to the fourth-seeded Strasburg Tigers in an Ohio Division IV district semifinal Monday at Don Coss Field.

Last Thursday in a Pioneer Valley Conference makeup game against visiting Fort Frye, FHS was no-hit by Cadet senior Derek Layton in a five-inning, 14-0 setback. The day before, the Cougars won the sectional title with a 3-2 upset of second-seeded Shadyside.

“We didn’t hit, and (Jay DiBacco) was a good pitcher,” said first-year Frontier skipper Kurt Satterfield. “We didn’t get any combination of hits and didn’t manufacture anything. Usually we’ll manufacture a run.”

Strasburg junior Jay DiBacco threw his first varsity career no-hitter, striking out eight and walking two in seven innings of work.

“It’s pretty exciting, very exciting, especially doing it in a district semifinal,” said the right-handed-throwing DiBacco. “I was just hitting my spots, and my location was good. The curveball was working nice.

“I owe it all to my defense and catcher (Paul Thomas) really. They were making plays behind me all game. Without them, I couldn’t have done it.”

Strasburg, now 18-10 on the season, advances and will play Monday’s Caldwell-Toronto winner Wednesday in a district final at a site to be announced.

“You know, if we don’t give up any hits Wednesday, we’ve got a good chance to win,” said Tigers head coach Mike Becker, facetiously. “Jay went out there and controlled his fastball, got ahead, and threw enough off-speed stuff to keep them off balance. He did a wonderful job.”

Frontier exits with a breakeven mark of 11-11. Cougar righty Brent West threw six innings, fanning four, walking two, and allowing five hits. Both of the runs that he gave up were unearned.

“Of course, we’re disappointed but you look at the outcome and where you ended up, the rewards kind of outweigh the disappointments,” said FHS junior shortstop Zach Cunningham.

Satterfield agreed and added, “We probably overachieved a little bit, I think, this year, but we hung with two good teams (Shadyside and Strasburg). We played good and I’m proud of the boys.”

DiBacco and West were hooked up in a pitcher’s duel for the first four innings. The Cougars threatened right of the bat when Dalton Webber was safe on an error, and Wyatt Smitley walked, but DiBacco was able to retire the side.

In the fourth, Strasburg senior Matt Neidenthal doubled with two outs, but was stranded as West got the next Tigers’ batter on a flyout to left.

DiBacco retired the FHS side in order in the top of the fifth. But in the bottom half of the frame, West got himself into a jam, facing the lower third of the Strasburg batting order.

Leading off, Thomas blooped a single to center, and advanced to second on Jared Burnworth’s bunt single down the first base line. Both then moved up a base on a passed ball.

Bearing down, West got freshman Mike Neidenthal on a popout to Cunningham, and then got Gino Schupbach to ground the ball to FHS first baseman Aaron Ott. Ott threw to the plate, and Smitley was able to tag out Thomas in a rundown.

West then got freshman Mitch Neidenthal to hit a routine flyball to left, the sun field, and it was dropped by the Cougar outfielder. On the error, both Burnworth and Schupbach scored to make it 2-0.

“I was standout out there in the third base coaching box during the game, and the sun was definitely in your eyes,” Satterfield said.

West got out of the inning by getting the next Tiger batter to hit into a force play.

Meanwhile, DiBacco was in a groove, and retired the final 11 Cougars he faced. The last FHS hitter to get on base was Smitley, who was hit by a pitch in the top of the fourth.

In the sixth, Cunningham drilled a hard smash to the left side of the Strasburg infield, and was thrown out at first.

“The third baseman (Jarrett McCracken) made a heckuva a play on that,” Cunningham said. “He got it just on the end of his glove.”

Cunningham could only shake his head.

“He (DiBacco) was a good pitcher,” he said. “He threw hard. He hit his spots. He had a great curveball. You can’t take it away from him.”

Satterfield said that he was looking forward to the future.

“I’m optimistic for next year,” the Cougars coach said. “We’ve got a lot of returning starters.”