If your offense can't get going, bunt.
It would seem to be backwards advice for The Out-of-Door Academy baseball team (23-3), which averages 8.54 runs per game. The Thunder have been able to swing their way into plenty of big wins in 2021, including the team's regional semifinal win against Canterbury on May 12, when the team scored six runs in the seventh inning to win 10-7. That comeback included a massive grand slam from senior Logan Tribble.
On Wednesday, in ODA's state semifinal game against Trinity Christian Academy (17-8-2), ODA again found itself trailing entering the seventh inning, but this time opted for a different approach. Down 2-1, the Thunder decided to bunt. Three times. Each time — from senior Ryan Kelly, senior Nolan Lewellen and junior Carter Dierdorf — the bunt went for a base hit. Those bunts combined with two walks and a lead off line drive from junior Aidan Marino that ricocheted off a TCA outfielder's glove, allowing him to reach second base, resulted in ODA scoring four runs in the inning.
Senior Tyler Colditz closed out things in the bottom of the seventh for a 5-2 ODA win.
"[Bunts are] something we have prepared for the last two or three weeks," Matthews said. "We've been implementing them at the end of practice. We were coming up a bit short in terms of guys at the plate the entire game. We just couldn't pull through with a big hit with runners in scoring position. [I] decided we needed to change things up a bit. Our guys executed when the time called for it. I couldn't be more proud of them."
ODA sophomore Luke Geske started the game on the mound and gave the Thunder three innings, allowing two runs (one earned) on four hits. Dierdorf came on in relief and also gave three inning, allowing zero runs on three hits, before Colditz closed it out.
The Thunder will play St. Johns Country Day (24-6) in the state championship game at 4 p.m. Thursday at Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers.