BASEBALL: Redskins advance to district
ELIDA — Elida varsity coach Todd Grapner frankly has seen enough of Johnny Crawford.
The Wapakoneta Redskins left-hander threw 12 innings of shutout baseball in two games against the Bulldogs this season.
Tuesday night, he tossed a two-hit, complete-game shutout to lead Wapak to a 2-0 win on a Division II sectional final at Ed Sandy Field in Elida.
It was his sixth straight shutout.
“We knew runs were going to be tough with Crawford on the mound,” Grapner said. “You’ve got to play pretty mistake-free with Wapak in general, but especially when he’s pitching.”
Crawford was perfect through the first 3 2/3 innings before giving up a single to Mackenzie Hampshire, one of only two hits on the night. He struck out 10 and walked just two, one of those intentionally.
“Johnny has been lights-out for us this year,” Wapak coach Jason Brandt said. “As a team, we feel very good that he’s going to throw strikes and work ahead for us. He did that for us tonight. ... He’s a bulldog on the hill.”
Elida threatened just once in the contest, loading the bases in the top of the sixth — the Bulldogs were the visiting team on the scoreboard despite the game being played on their home field.
With two outs and a runner on first, Brandon Stinson hit a soft grounder back to the mound. Crawford fielded the ball and threw it high to Brandon Miller at first base, forcing Miller to pull his foot off the bag. A wild pitch advanced both runners to second and third.
With first base open, Wapak intentionally walked Mackenzie Hampshire to load the bases. Crawford then got cleanup hitter Dalton Martz to fly out to Andrew Hines in the gap in right center to end the threat.
“I don’t know what that throw to first was,” Crawford said. “It just kind of launched out of my hand.”
Crawford’s counterpart Jake Porter pitched a solid game, allowing just two hits in five innings. But the Redskins were able to take advantage of Elida miscues to put both runs on the board.
Alex Koch drew a two-out walk in the bottom of the third and moved to second on a passed ball. Josh Apple grounded routinely to Martz at shortstop. But Martz’s throw to first was high and forced Hampshire to pull his foot off the bag.
An alert Koch never broke stride as he rounded third and scored from second on the play.
“I saw him (Hampshire) jump. So I thought he might have come off the base,” Koch said. “I still just hustled it out and made sure I got home in case he didn’t. I knew I was going to score if he was safe at first.”
Said Brandt, “Before the pitch came, I told him not to slow down on anything. ... But you know what? We can say it all we want. But he has to do it. And he did it. It was a great thing.”
Koch scored Wapak’s second run of the game in the sixth. He was hit by a pitch to lead off the inning and advanced to second on a wild pitch.
Josh Apple dropped a beautiful bunt down the third-base line, moving Koch to third and beating the throw to first to put runners on the corners with no outs.
Crawford walked to load the bases and Miller lined out to left field for the first out, bringing designated hitter Chandler Kaeck to the plate. Kaeck then lifted a 3-1 pitch into deep center field for a sacrifice fly, scoring Koch.
“That’s huge anytime you can get a second run to make a team have to score two, especially the way Johnny was throwing today,” Brandt said.
In addition to Apple’s bunt single, Kaeck doubled in the second inning for Wapak’s only other hit in the game.
The 19-4 Redskins advance to face Tiffin Columbian in a district semifinal at 2 p.m. Thursday, May 17 at Bluffton University.
Columbian, the No. 2 seed in its sectional, defeated Bellville Clear Fork 9-2 on Tuesday to advance.
Wapak still has a regular-season Western Buckeye League game against the Defiance Bulldogs to play. That game, which began on April 20, was suspended with the score tied 2-2 in the second inning.
It will be completed at 5 p.m. Friday at Defiance. Defiance is 23-1 overall and 8-0 in the WBL.