PLYMOUTH | Don't tell Griffith coach Brian Jennings that his Panthers' 2-1 win over Andrean in Saturday's Class 3A Plymouth Regional was an upset.
“Last year, you can say it was an upset, but as good as they are, we were right with them today,” Jennings said. “We’re a good team, too.”
Griffith starter Jesse Smith outdueled Zac Ryan, and Brandon Garcia turned a game-ending double play for the Panthers in the semifinals at Bill Nixon Field.
Griffith (19-9-1), which beat Andrean in the regional for the second straight year, advanced to face defending state champion Western (22-5).
Smith needed just 85 pitches to go the distance. He scattered nine hits but did not walk a hitter and struck out five.
“Andrean hit the ball hard; they are a good hitting team,” Smith said. “My defense made the plays behind me.”
Andrean (27-3-1) put the tying run on first with one out in the seventh after a pinch-hit single from Alex Vode. Jamie Johnson re-entered to run for Vode, and he broke for second on a 3-2 pitch to Ryan.
Ryan laced a ball up the middle that would have been a base hit if Garcia had not moved over to cover second. He grabbed the liner and fired to first to double up Johnson and end the game.
“I just covered the base (for the steal) and he hit it right to me,” Garcia said. “It feels great to help my team get the 'W' any way I can.”
“It’s an unfortunate way to lose when you smoke a ball like that,” said Andrean coach Dave Pishkur.
Griffith scored the winning run in the sixth. Austin Brown singled and went to third on a hit-and-run single from Kody Hoese. Brown scored on a Ryan wild pitch.
Jimmy Skiff plated Jeremy Briggs with a two-out single in the fourth for Andrean’s run.
The 59ers missed scoring opportunities in the first two innings. Andrean had a runner caught stealing third to end the first and left the bases loaded in the second.
Robbie Hernandez had three singles for Griffith.
“He’s a spark plug for us in the No. 9 hole,” Jennings said. “He’s a competitive kid and he lights the fire for us.”
Briggs and Donovan Chandler each had two hits for Andrean. Ryan gave up two runs and struck out three on the mound.
The 59ers graduate eight seniors, six of whom are slated to play in college.
“These kids are going to represent themselves and Andrean well when they go to college,” Pishkur said. “They’re all going to do well. They’re class gentlemen.”