FAIRPORT HARBOR – Not pretty, but winning a tournament isn’t necessary.
Bristol Baseball was on its way to its second district title game, after beating Ashtabula St. Louis. John, 4-3, in the Fairport Harbor District Division IV semifinal contest on Tuesday.
St. John scored first, scoring the ball that passed, but Bristol hit again in the bottom of the second, scoring three innings.
“The first inning that we play ball, it doesn’t score anything, but I just tell them to ‘Keep playing ball’, and we play ball in the second or third half and lead. To run,” Panthers coach Jeff Thompson said. “This is a game that three weeks ago, I didn’t know if we were going to win because we didn’t have the mental focus.
“Even though sometimes it’s not good, we stay focused on what needs to be done.”
One of the team’s biggest catalysts this season was Nick Church, who started on the mound, not only being a star on the field, but also important in the dugout.
He scored the team’s final round in the evening, stealing home after a field error.
“Nick Church comes out and throws 124 pitches, can read people, steal bases, score runs, he’s just an excellent baseball player,” Thompson said.
With two outs and two runners in the top seventh, Church reached the pitch count and had to be pulled.
In the footsteps of Hadyn Mahan.
Mahan, with a lot of pressure on him, struck out St. John is the final batter for the ice game
“He came in and finished,” Thompson said. “It was a stressful situation for him and he handled it well. We made a mistake on the field, then he came back and made these guys attack and beat the last batter. It was just cool and calm under the pressure. I have to give him a lot of credit. .
Considered generally a basketball school, Thompson did his part to change perceptions about Bristol as a school for athletes.
For reference, 11 of the 15 players, as well as Thompson, who is an assistant coach, are part of the program.
“I always talk about how Bristol is a school of athletes,” he said. “I don’t care what sport. Basketball, baseball, football, whatever sport you do, be an athlete. Our goal is to be successful in baseball like basketball. I’m 11 out of 15 playing basketball so we know what it takes. They know what it takes to win …. Over the last four or five years we’ve actually had some baseball-wise success over here.We just want to move on.
The church and the senior class have spurred that growth. As a freshman, the Panthers reached the district finals just for Mathews.
Like their softball counterparts, Bristol will end their careers with a district final appearance. He hopes to match up this season by lifting the district championship trophy as well.
The Panthers (13-13) advance to Thursday’s district finals in Fairport Harbor where they will face Jackson-Milton. The first pitch is set for 5 pm The winner will advance to the regional at Gates Mills.