PLYMOUTH | Griffith was riding a baseball high until it ran into buzzsaw Western sophomore pitcher Evan Warden.
Striking out 13 Griffith batters, Warden allowed five Griffith base runners in a 4-1 Western win in the Class 3A Plymouth Regional championship game Saturday night.
Griffith's run came on a homer by No. 9 hitter Brandon Garcia, the second home run of the season by a Panthers hitter. Garcia said Griffith hitters picked up quickly that Western sophomore pitcher favored the curve ball, but couldn't connect.
"I knew he was coming curve ball every time," Garcia said. "Once I saw curve, I dug in. He threw hard and we knew he was coming curve ball, we just couldn't hit it."
Griffith showed its ability to manufacture runs in a semifinal win against Andrean, but against Warden, the Western defense didn't have the opportunity to make mistakes.
"Tonight I think our youth showed in some aspects, but give the kid credit, he got 13 of 21 outs and they didn't have to make a play," Griffith coach Brian Jennings said.
Griffith starting pitcher Anthony Carter allowed back-to-back homers to the first two batters he faced, so Jennings made a quick switch. Reliever Garrett Litke, who pitched 1 1/3 innings in the regional semifinal against Andrean allowing two runs, five hits and struck out five.
"All we ask is for (Litke) to give us a chance, and he gave us a chance," Jennings said. "He's a competitive kid who's a battler and he's grown up around this program, he's been around it since the second grade so he knows what's at stake."
Western added a run in the third and another in the sixth when junior second baseman Dakota LaMott went 3-for-3 with a double for his team, scoring its last run on a sac fly. Leadoff hitter Marcus Pingleton scored twice for Western (23-9), which will face Bellmont in the North Semistate next week.
Griffith loses just three seniors to graduation, and Garcia said this team expects to make a return trip next year.
"There are no other guys I'd rather be playing with right now on this field," Garcia said. "This loss right now is just giving more motivation to work harder in the offseason, because we will be back here."