Paulding players celebrate their NWC championship Tuesday. Paulding County Progress
Paulding players celebrate their NWC championship Tuesday. Paulding County Progress
By BRUCE HEFFLINGER

Sports Writer

PAULDING – The battle of Northwest Conference unbeatens Paulding and Lincolnview was as advertised on Tuesday. The title game came down to the wire … bases loaded, two outs, tying runner in scoring position and the potential game-winner at first in the top of the last inning.

But a pop out behind second base was hauled in by Paulding shortstop Carson Shull and the celebration began. The Panthers were NWC outright champions with a 6-4 victory over the state’s second-ranked Division IV team by Prep Baseball Report.

“We talked all season that we thought we were good enough to get to this game,” Paulding coach Travis McGarvey said. “We knew they were the last team on our schedule in the NWC. Our goal was to get to this game, it was set up right for us.

“Then the fight we showed to come through against a team like that, I couldn’t be more proud.”

Falling behind 2-0 after the top of the first - courtesy of a Jaden Youtsey two-run homer - made the task at hand even more difficult.

But the Panthers took the lead in the bottom of the inning and never trailed. One-out walks to Shull and Jaret Miller and an Evan Edwards’ hit-by-pitch loaded the bases. After a passed ball plated Shull, Westen Phlipot hit a roller in front of home and was thrown out at first. Miller managed to score the tying run on the toss to first and, when the throw home got through, Edwards raced in with the third Paulding run.

“We’ve had games where teams jumped on us early and we didn’t respond or it got worse,” McGarvey noted. “Good teams made us look bad. So to get those three runs … I think it set the tone for the rest of the game. I think they knew they were in for a battle and it gave us confidence and confidence is a big thing. It goes a long way.”

Phlipot, who went 5.2 innings to pick up the victory, admitted the three-run frame was big for him.

“That was a booster, it helped lift me back up,” the senior left-hander said. “After that home run I was down but once we got that lead back I was sitting on a cushion and just went out there and threw strikes.”

The Panthers added two more runs in the second when Miller lined a two-run single to right-center to score Hunter Kauser, who had doubled, and Shull.

The Lancers trimmed the deficit to 5-3 in the fourth on an RBI single from Youtsey and nearly scored more if not for a diving catch in right field by Sam Woods with two outs and the bases loaded.

“He made a very similar catch against Crestview in the seventh inning,” McGarvey said. “He doesn’t play like a freshman. Once he got into the lineup this year we couldn’t get him out.”

Lincolnview made it 5-4 in the sixth on an Ethan Kemler run-scoring single which brought an end to the night for Phlipot.

“After that first inning he just battled,” McGarvey said of Phlipot. “I’m so proud of that kid.”

Kolson Egnor came on to pitch out of the inning and was then helped out with an insurance run in the last of the sixth on a Payton Beckman two-out pinch hit run-scoring single.

“That was a huge hit by Payton,” McGarvey noted. “He hasn’t gotten a lot of at-bats but he’s been working hard. Good things come to guys that work hard, we got him an opportunity and I’m proud of that kid.”

Egnor then escaped the bases-loaded jam in the seventh for the save.

“We had thought about going to him earlier but I wasn’t able to get him loose in the bullpen,” McGarvey said. “We decided to ride with Wes as long as we could. Once Kolson was ready to go, he did a good job.”.

Phlipot struck out eight, walked four and allowed seven hits for the Panthers, which end NWC play at a perfect 8-0, the first unbeaten league finish by Paulding since going 10-0 in 1985.

“This is surreal,” said Phlipot, who pointed to his slider and curve as his key pitches on the evening. “My freshman year I played a little bit of varsity and we won it. After that I wanted to keep grinding and get it back.”

Lincolnview closes out conference play at 7-1 while falling to 21-3 on the season.

“I just tried to keep them off-balance, that was pretty much it,” Phlipot explained. “Don’t throw the same pitch too many times in a row and throw strikes.”

With the sectional tournament up next for the Panthers, McGarvey could not help but enjoy the moment.

“I’m thrilled for these kids, it’s a great feeling,” the Paulding coach said after the Panthers won the conference for the 15th time in school history and the second time in four years. “To come in here and win a conference title .. that’s what we’ve talked about ever since I started. This team … this school should compete for an NWC title every year. We’ve got a couple now, two in the last four years, hopefully that keeps rolling.”

Linescore

Lincolnview  200 101 0 - 4  9  1

Paulding       320 001 x - 6  5  3

Records: Paulding 13-7 (8-0), Lincolnview 21-3 (7-1).

Winning pitcher: Westen Phlipot (5.2 innings, 4 runs, 3 earned, 7 hits, 8 strikeouts, 4 walks). Other Kolson Egnor (1.1 innings, 0 runs, 2 hits, 1 strikeout, 2 walks).

Losing pitcher: Gavin Carter (1.1 innings, 5 runs, 2 hits, 1 strikeout, 3 walks). Other Collin Overholt (4.2 innings, 1 run, 3 hits, 7 strikeouts, 1 walk).

Leading hitters: (Lincolnview) - Collin Overholt single; Jaden Youtsey home run, 2 singles, 2 runs, 3 RBIs; Ethan Kemler 2 singles; Brayden Evans single; Braxton Fox double; Cole Binkley single. (Paulding) - Hunter Kauser double; Carson Shull 2 runs; Jaret Miller single, 2 RBIs; Evan edwards single; Blake McGarvey single; Payton Beckman single.