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It wasn’t pretty but Dixie Heights took just enough advantage of NewCath miscues to move on

By Dan Weber NKyTribune reporter

All Chris Maxwell wanted was for his Dixie Heights pitchers “to throw strikes.”

He said it over and over and over. “You’re up five runs,” he told his guys. “Don’t worry about it.”

And then just when it mattered most, when Newport Central Catholic had closed it to within 8-5 lead and no one in either dugout felt all that good about where this game was headed, they did . . . start throwing strikes, that is.

Just like the veteran Colonels’ coach said they would be, playing in Monday’s semifinals against top-ranked Beechwood in the 8 p.m. game as that lead held up.

“We’ll take it,” Maxwell said as his 34th District winners improved to 15-21 and now face a team that has beaten them twice – 12-11 in the opener 2 ½ months ago and 11-0 just 15 days ago on Senior Night.

Dixie Height Coach Chris Maxwell working on a getting his pitcher to throw strikes.

“We took advantage of their (NewCath’s) miscues,” Maxwell said, “if they don’t throw the ball around, we probably lose.”

But the Breds, falling to 12-18, did, including four errors in the four-run second alone when Dixie put up four scores on just two hits.

Some of the throws were badly aimed, some just bad decisions to make a throw when there was no play to make.

Not that Dixie didn’t earn the win. In a three-run fourth, Brayden Runion, one of the candidates to start the Beechwood game, hit a two-RBI screamer to center field that just got under the glove and went all the way to the fence.

“I didn’t see it but I knew it was down,” Runion said, and took off accordingly. He’s pumped, he said.

“This is the farthest we’ve gone in my five years,” the senior said of the regional semis. And he noted that when they had their full complement on the roster, that was the one-run game.

“We have been playing better the last 10 games even if it didn’t look like it,” Maxwell said. “We’ll have our hands full. With their offense, they win games 10-9, 13-8, all year long.”

The hope here is that “our pitchers are young. And I think you can get nervous playing before a semi-crowd like this.”

Reliever Thomas Gemainhardt did not. He took Maxwell’s advice to heart. “Don’t throw it as hard as you want to,” he could hear his coach telling him. “Just throw strikes.”

Which he did, setting NewCath down without a hit. And getting a strikeout on his less-than-fastest fast ball that he has a name for but we can’t repeat it here.

Although that may be as good a way to describe this matchup between the seventh-and-eighth-ranked teams in the region.

“We’ve got ‘em right where we want ‘em,” Maxwell kidded about the Beechwood matchup.

But they do have themselves in the semifinals. So there’s that.

NEWCATH 1 1 0 0 0 3 0 – 5-9-5
DIXIE HEIGHTS 0 4 0 3 0 1 X – 8 12-3
WP: Cole Pullum 3-2, LP: Ohradzansky (0-6)

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