DEFIANCE – Archbold wouldn’t let a lengthy lightning delay deter them, as after the break they got out of a bases loaded jam and went on to win 2-1 over Eastwood for a Division III baseball district title Saturday afternoon in Defiance.
The Bluestreaks also got revenge from a regional semifinal loss they suffered to the Eagles a season ago.
“That’s three district championships in a row,” stated Archbold coach Dick Selgo. “And a number of these guys have been a part of all three of those. I give them a lot of credit, because this is not easy getting through a field of this magnitude. We know how good Eastwood is, Genoa and Swanton (as well). It was a tremendous field, and for us to get through there, we knew it was gonna be tough. You could see today it was very tough.”
Archbold grabbed the lead in the top of the fifth inning.
T.J. Rice started them off by rifling a double down the left field line. Cory Erbskorn advanced him with a bunt, and a fielding error from Eastwood pitcher Jake Pickerel put runners at the corners.
The Streaks attempted to score Rice with a suicide squeeze from Trevor Rupp, but the Eagles were ready and got the out at the plate. Nic Rodriguez then grounded into a fielder’s choice to put out Erbskorn at third, and it was up to Jeron Williams with two outs. He came through with a base hit, scoring Rupp for a 1-0 advantage.
“I just tried to be aggressive,” said Jeron Williams of the at bat. “He was pounding the strike zone a lot, so I just saw the first pitch and hit it through.”
After a single Kade Kern moved to third on a sacrifice bunt and a groundout in the top of the sixth. From there, a throwing error from third to first to get Rice brought home Kern to extend the Bluestreak lead.
“It seemed like we could have had a lot more runs than we did,” said Selgo of his team having to work for every run. “For the number of hits we had, and at the time we had them, we didn’t seemed to get enough runs. There was just some things that happened that didn’t go our way offensively.”
Eastwood, however, would threaten to take the lead in the home half of the sixth.
Jake Pickerel drew a one-out walk, then Selgo replaced starter Bryson Taylor with Rupp. Tyler Haas singled off the new pitcher, Justin Pickerel followed with a pop up, but back-to-back walks forced in Jake Pickerel to cut it to 2-1.
The Streaks would send in Rice and take out Rupp, but as he was throwing his warm up pitches, lightning was seen in the area and play was suspended.
“That’s a tough situation for both teams,” said Archbold’s skipper of the delay. “And it happens every year at the district tournament. So you just get used to it. But, our guys handled it well.”
After the weather passed, Rice got Brendan Halko to ground into a fielder’s choice to end the threat.
“The key to me was pounding strikes in the corners,” explained Rice. “That is a great team we played. I knew I had to throw a lot of strikes to get them out. Couldn’t walk anyone, the bases were loaded.”
“Bryson Taylor got us off to a great start on the mound,” added Selgo. “And then, T.J. Rice was tremendous in a very difficult situation. To come in with the bases loaded, and the tying run on third, winning run on second. So I give him a lot of credit for getting us out of that jam.”
Rice closed the Eagles out with a 1-2-3 inning in the bottom of the seventh. However, he got some help from Jeron Williams who made the last out, making an over-the-shoulder catch on Grant Hirzel’s knock to shallow center.
“I saw the ball hit, I kind of took a peek at our centerfielder to see if he could make the play,” said Williams. “He was pretty far back so I went as hard as I could after it. Neither one of us called it, but I made the play.”
Taylor earned the win going 5 1/3, allowing a run on three hits with five strikeouts. Jake Pickerel went all seven for the Eagles but took the loss.
“Bryson pitched great. Couldn’t ask for anything more,” concluded Rice. “Our defense played great – zero errors. We hit when we needed to.
“We’re a great team. We know if we play like that, we’re gonna be hard to beat.”
Archbold (24-5) now advances to the regional tournament at Elida. They will take on Columbus Academy Thursday at 5 p.m. at Ed Sandy Field.
Streaks battle back to top Comets
Although admittingly not performing up to their usual standard, Archbold fought back from an early deficit, with some help from errors by Genoa, in a 3-2 win over the Comets in the district semifinal Thursday at Defiance.
“We got tested by a very good team and we weren’t playing our best game by any means,” said coach Selgo. “We found a way. As coach (Doug) Krauss at Archbold has said in basketball for many, many years, in tournament you just find a way to survive and move on. And we did that. Our guys made some mistakes, but they came through with some big plays when we really needed it.”
The rally started with the Bluestreaks trailing 2-0 in the bottom of the fifth inning. Brandon Miller led off the frame with a base hit, then Comet pitcher Allen Laytart got a strikeout. In what should have been the second out, Cory Erbskorn grounded it to third, but the throw to second base missed its target and pinch-runner Clay Nafziger advanced to third, putting runners at the corners.
A T.J. Rice sacrifice fly cut the lead to 2-1, Nic Rodriguez then reached on a catcher’s interference call, and Jeron Williams singled to load the bases. With the bases full, Bryce Williams reached on a throwing error that scored another pinch-runner, Noah Cheney, to knot the score 2-2.
“We gave them some and then they gave us some back. It ended up in our favor,” said Selgo. “Sometimes you have to take advantage of those things. Fortunately we did.”
Bluestreak relief pitcher Rigo Ramos continued to deal on the mound as well, striking out the side in the top of the sixth. He notched 10 strikeouts overall – including seven in a row during innings 5-7 – all while getting the win after relieving Miller who recorded just two outs.
“He’s been tremendous in relief for us this year,” said Selgo of the junior. “It’s such a comforting feeling to know that we have him to go to when things aren’t going well. That’s exactly what he did for us today. He came in and completely dominated them, and gave our team a chance to get back in the game and win it.”
The Streaks loaded the bases with one out in the home half of the sixth, where they would put up the go-ahead run. It came from Trevor Rupp’s suicide squeeze, plating Gabe Petersen for the 3-2 lead.
“Trevor Rupp can do that and I have confidence in him,” stated Archbold’s skipper. “He came through with a big play as a senior in that situation. No question.”
Ramos closed it out with two strikeouts and a flyout to left from Sam Witt. Laytart took the loss for the Comets, despite not getting much help from his defense in the fifth.
However, it was Archbold who struggled out of the gate.
Miller hit the first batter of the game, but Genoa’s Noah Edwards would be thrown out trying to steal second, then Witt walked, and Gabe Scott doubled to right field. The Streaks got a strikeout of Rylen Stoner, but when the ball went to the backstop, he reached first and Witt scored to make it 1-0.
After a pop out, Selgo chose to take out Miller and insert Ramos. He gave up a walk to Josh Vischer, then an infield single to Jacob Stewart brought home another run for a 2-0 Comet lead.
Ramos got out of the frame on a lineout from Ben Netry, and he would roll from that point on.
“I’ve been through a lot of tournament games throughout my high school career. I’ve played a lot of big tournament games throughout my high school career,” explained Ramos. “I knew coming in, it wasn’t gonna be any different. Whether it’s a regional game, a sectional game, district game. I knew I just had to come in and do my job and everyone behind me was relying on me.
“As the game went on, they (my pitches) just got more and more effective. Once I got into a certain point in the game, I pretty much just put it in cruise control.”
Reach Max Householder at 419-335-2010