Wapak seeks ‘final moment’

Wapakoneta fans easily outnumbered fans from Millersburg West Holmes by a nearly two-to-one margin during the state semifinal 3-2 win on Thursday.

The Redskin faithful has always produced a solid following to most sports events — even prompting an inquiry from the Ohio High School Athletic Association so they could spread the news.

Wapak fans have seen some very good teams make it to high levels come the end of the season.

Two wrestlers, Brent Miller and Logan Erb, have captured state titles. Hannah Tabler was a state-runner up in track in 2007. The girl’s basketball team in 2009 and the boys bowling team in 2011 both were one peg short as state runners-up in 2009 and 2011. The 2010 Redskin baseball team made a good run before running into that “Tom Held-coached Defiance Bulldog” hump in 2010.

However, in a school with a long history, the Redskin faithful have not been afforded that final moment. That feeling of when the last game is played, the season is over, and the Redskin players are holding up those fingers, gesturing “We’re number one.”

The 2012 baseball team has again brought the Auglaize County community to the brink of that moment. It’s a position the community is familiar with, but this time, the feeling is different. The expectancy is there. The Redskins hit the ball early, but had problems grouping them into runs. The Knights had a 1-0 lead three innings into the game.

However, the urgency that a situation such as this would normally call for wasn’t there. Players and fans alike have taken notice that this is a mission. No questions need to be asked. The look is on everyone’s face. The jaw-dropping plays keep happening.

As a resident of Coldwater, proud grandfather Bob Gerlach sees the mission clearly. He has seen this “quest” many times with the Coldwater baseball team, and he said the same feeling is there with the 2012 Redskin baseball team.

“There is that same kind of fervor,” Gerlach said.

Immediately after he made that statement, Dom Campos drove in the team’s first run. On that same hit, after the run scored, his grandson was thrown out on a baserunning miscue for the final out of the inning.

Gerlach certainly showed disappointment with the play, as most of the fans did, but it wasn’t the wounding disappointment a person would expect in a close state semifinal game.

“That was a big run there,” Gerlach said. “They always seem to do what they need to do.”

When asked the question of what was different about the team, fans had several comments.

From playing together as a team, to deep pitching, to a solid defense, to key hits, there have been a long list of positive moments. However, when that question was posed to Gerlach, perhaps his grandson Dustin Gerlach, who was sitting in the row right in front of him, answered it best. Dustin played on the 2010 team that made the run to the regional final.

“They always come up with the key play,” Dustin said. “They get the key hit. They have a good defense and they make the great play when they need to.”

There is no standout on the team, though there are several above average ballplayers. The team has combined all of its strength, and it is obvious they enjoy playing together and use their skills to have fun. A recipe for a great baseball season for sure.

They simply have fun on the field and mix in the right amount of seriousness to make them a serious contender. That feeling has poured over onto the fans.

Jan and Joe Green, who have a son who just graduated from Wapakoneta but does not play on the team, made the trek to enjoy the game.

“We just like baseball,” Joe Green said. “We took the day off work and come down to enjoy them. They are playing well together and they are having fun. It makes it fun to watch.”

Resident Ron Brown said the team is peaking.

“They are at the top of their game right now,” Brown said. “The team gets along so well. A state title in this town is long overdue. But these kids are doing well not putting pressure on themselves. They just go out and play ball and have fun.

An example of that fun was evident in Campos’ at-bat that opened up the scoring for the Redskins in the fourth inning. In his first at-bat, Campos had put together a decent at-bat and forced the West Holmes pitcher to throw several pitches before Campos finally flied out. However, a mix of speeds had Campos tied up in knots at times. In his second at-bat, he simply climbed into the on deck circle and looked up to his father as he always does.

The advice from his father was simple. “Get that shoulder in. Think fastball.”

Campos delivered as many Redskin players did at crucial points during the game and throughout the season.

Campos’ moment was not the only one. Shortstop Josh Apple provided them. Key hits produced enough runs. Even when Redskin centerfielder Caleb Zwiebel was outstretched and fell just short of a long drive in the left-centerfield gap in the seventh inning, the fans, or team, didn’t appear to worry. Zwiebel showed why, ending the game with a shoestring catch that would have plated the tying run.

He provided another shining moment in the sixth inning. With runners at first and second, he gathered in a deep fly ball and made a dead on throw to Apple who nailed the tagging up Knight runner trying to advance to third for a double play. Just like that, a one out with runners on first and third position was turned into two outs and a runner on first.

The play proved even more important with a long drive for a double by the following batter that may have tied the score. Such has been the story of the 2012 Redskins.

The impact the team is having on the community is noticeable.

Superintendent Keith Horner said it will hang with the community.

“This is huge,” Horner said. "This team does all of the right things.”

As if staged, as soon as those words came out of Horner’s mouth, Redskin third baseman Marshall Gerlach swiped the tag after the dead-on shot from centerfield.

“Like that,” he said, with a smile.