ELYRIA — RJ Ringer started South Central's run in the Division IV regional tournament.
He finished it too.
The senior, who pitched nine innings in the Trojans' semifinal win over Kinsman Badger Thursday, came on in the bottom of the seventh inning in a tight game and got the final two outs, sending South Central into the state tournament with a 7-5 win over Cuyahoga Heights in a regional baseball final at Elyria's George Day Field, Ely Stadium.
The Trojans, 22-7, are scheduled to play at 4 p.m. Thursday against Newark Catholic, which edged Berlin Hiland 9-8 for the the Lancaster regional title, in the first state semifinal at Cooper Stadium in Columbus.
The state title game is scheduled for 1 p.m. June 2, also at Cooper Stadium.
"It's amazing to know we worked so hard to prepare for this moment,'' said South Central sophomore Brandon Boyd, who gained the win. "It started back in the sectional. We came out ready to play.'"
The Trojans broke a 4-4 tie with three runs in the top of the sixth inning, which was unlike the last two tournament games in that South Central had to battle back late to win.
"It's a little more relaxing for me,'' Trojans coach Darren Hunt said. "It's a nice feeling to be in control already and put the pressure on them. We had some kids battle and work the count. I have a pretty special group of seniors. They never quit."
One was Ringer, who relieved Boyd in the bottom of the seventh after the first two runners reached base, a third hit a fielder's choice and a fourth walked to put runners on first and second.
Cuyahoga Heights batter Brett Miller hit a sacrifice fly to score a runner who had stolen base, but Ringer got Clay Mervar to ground into a fielder's choice to second baseman Ian Franks to end the game.
"He ran a mile when he came to school,'' Hunt said of Ringer. "He said he could give me one inning. RJ has been our workhorse. He threw 92 pitches in nine innings against Badger.''
In the sixth, the Trojans scored those runs on three hits.
Travis Roberson was hit by a pitch to lead off the inning and he stole second base. A fielder's choice advanced Roberson to third. After Roberson was thrown out at the plate on a grounder by Boyd, Zac Osborn walked to put runners on first and second.
Junior Jordan Smith stepped up and smacked a double to right center to plate both Boyd and Osborn for two RBI. Ringer followed with a single to score Smith with the seventh run.
"Jordan hit the ball well,'' Hunt said. "You just have a feeling when a kid is due.''
The Redskins struck for two runs in the bottom of the second inning, but South Central produced four runs in the fourth.
Wheeler opened with a single up the middle. Ian Franks reached base on an error and Ringer singled to plate Wheeler.
After a strikeout, Tom Parcher reached base on an error that scored Franks. A fielder's choice produced the second out, but Osborn came through with a clutch double to left-center to score both Parcher and Boyd.
Bond went the first four innings and allowed four runs on six hits with two walks and one strikeout. Boyd worked 2 1/3 innings and gave up a run with two walks and two strikeouts.
"Brett kept us competitive and Brandon did great,'' Hunt said. "Those two innings were a huge lift for us.''
South Central had eight hits, led by Wheeler with two. Osborn, Smith, Dustin Gahring, Ringer, Roberson and Boyd added one each. Osborn, Smith and Ringer all drove in two runs. Boyd also scored two runs, while Franks, Parcher, Wheeler, Osborn and Smith touched home one each.
The Trojans reached the regional semis in 2001 and finished as state runner up in Division IV in 1995.
"It's a great feeling,'' Hunt said. "We've played two quality opponents. If you get to this point, everybody is good. It's about taking advantage of mistakes and momentum and momentum was huge.''
S. Central 000 403 0 7 8 2
Cuy. Hts. 020 200 0 5 6 2
WP: Boyd. LP: Mervar.
2B: Osborn (SC), Smith (SC), Paratore (CH) 2.