Chapin shines, Obringer returns as Truckers cruise

·6 min read

May 21—NORWALK — The sights were unexpected.

But the results stayed the same.

Few could have envisioned a scenario where the Norwalk High School baseball team would start Kelton Chapin in a tournament game.

And after the medical reports earlier in the week, few expected to see four-year starter Eli Obringer in the batter's box ever again for the Truckers.

On Friday, both those sights came true — and the Truckers never missed a beat.

Chapin, considered the team's fourth or fifth starter entering the season, threw five scoreless innings and scattered three hits against visiting Clyde in a Division II sectional championship game at NHS.

Obringer, out for the past five games with a lower back injury, returned to the lineup with a pair of hits and two RBIs. The end result was a 10-0 win over the visiting Fliers in five innings.

With the win, Norwalk — the top seed in the Fremont district — improved to 17-7 overall. The Truckers get a third meeting with SBC Lake rival Bellevue (14-9) at 2 p.m. Thursday in a district semifinal at Fremont Ross.

Chapin needed just 71 pitches to record the 15 outs, and didn't register a single strikeout. He got 10 flyouts and three groundball outs and also walked three batters.

Quietly, Chapin has allowed just one earned run in 40 innings this season.

The senior said pitching coach Wes Miller was on his case about wanting him to work on his mechanics more.

"And this year I really bought into it," Chapin said. "Coach Miller has helped me a lot this year. Over the winter, I started working out and lost a little weight.

"Coach Miller got me to work on my strides farther apart. I was able to start throwing harder and better," he added. "Today was a lot of fun. I was nervous at the beginning, but settled in and fell into a groove."

Norwalk coach Wes Douglas said in talking to his veteran team, which includes nine seniors, the decision to go with Chapin was universal.

"Probably our No. 5 pitcher when the season started," Douglas said. "He actually walked some guys today, but he usually doesn't, which is why we went with him. It allowed us to put Ian (Minor) at third and Buddy (Baker) at first, which is probably our most natural defense with him on the mound.

"He's allowed one run in 40 innings, but he wasn't as good as he's been lately actually," he added. "But in talking to our seniors about it, they all agreed Kelton is our best shot right now. And then you have Ian and Buddy sitting there in case you need them, all fresh and ready. We felt pretty good about it once we got up four or five."

Norwalk got a run in the bottom of the first as leadoff hitter Sam Battles singled off Eian Howey, then scored on an RBI base hit from Obringer. Griffin Peiples was hit by a pitch in the second, and was sacrifice bunted to second.

From there, the senior advanced to third on a passed ball and scored on a wild pitch for a 2-0 lead. Minor then led off the bottom of the third with a solo home run to left field, but it appeared Howey was going to get out of the frame with just the one run again, as he recorded two quick outs.

However, Chapin doubled to center on a 1-2 pitch, then he scored on another two-strike double by freshman Ben Rothhaar for a 4-0 lead. Peiples followed with a two-out single to extend the lead to 5-0.

"Those are backbreakers," Douglas said. "Two outs, two-strike hits from the middle and bottom of the order, which we haven't gotten a lot from this year. Griffin Peiples, I'm real proud of him. He's starting to believe in himself, and I'm starting to believe in him more.

"We got one bunt down and stole one base, so we didn't have to do a lot," he added. "We just sat back and put the ball in play against the third-ranked pitcher in the Lake. To beat a team three times isn't easy, especially after the first two games against them."

Consecutive singles by Mason Gurney and Blake Hershey to start the fourth gave the Fliers (11-14) a scoring threat. However, Chapin got a line-out, a flyout and a groundout to end the inning as the runners never advanced.

"It's been like that all season," Clyde head coach Drew Linder said. "We get a couple guys on and start to get things going, then hit a ball right at someone. I don't even want to look at how many guys we've stranded on base this season, but it's not been pretty.

"Chapin worked quick, kept us off balance and it was a look we hadn't seen," he added. "But we also made a lot of bad swings today."

Obringer added an RBI single in the fourth, while Kaiden Olson, on in relief, walked in a batter while facing Rothhaar to make it 7-0 through four innings.

The Truckers then ended the game in the home half of the fifth.

Battles and Caleb Sommers each walked with one out, then Minor singled to left field to score a run. After a strikeout, Bray Malson reached on an error near second base, which allowed Sommers to score the ninth run.

Fittingly, Chapin then singled up the middle to score Minor and end the game.

"That was fun, I was excited to do it," Chapin said. "It wasn't my best hit, but it worked."

Friday's win was especially gratifying for Obringer. He had not missed a start in his high school career prior to missing the past five games with a back injury that slowly deteriorated over the last three weeks.

"The pain was pretty bad, a lot of pinching and my lower back giving out on me," Obringer said. "It was a game-time decision. I got here early and did some running in the outfield and it felt pretty good and worked out.

"I definitely wanted to finish my high school career here on a good note, and we did," he added. "Obviously our district is pretty tough, but we feel confident."

Douglas said Obringer's return was huge in Norwalk winning its 11th sectional title over the past 18 seasons.

"Eli has got a great personality and a great baseball IQ, and I'm really happy to get him back in here," he said. "I think the whole team rallied around him today. It was a big lift."

Clyde 000 00 — 0 4 1

Norwalk 113 23 — 10 9 1

WP: Chapin; LP: Howey

2B: (C) Guhn; (N) Rothhaar, Chapin; HR: (N) Minor