Two aces were at their finest. But one rose above the other by the narrowest of margins.
The Defiance varsity baseball team traveled to Wapakoneta, and behind 14 strikeouts from Rob Zeigler, the Bulldogs defeated the Redskins, 1-0.
Senior Johnny Crawford pitched for the Redskins, allowing one run on three hits and five walks.
But Zeigler’s performance is one that will go down in Defiance baseball lore.
“We’ve seen some good ones in the Western Buckeye League, we’ve had some good ones at Defiance, but I really believe but that was the best pitching performance in Defiance baseball history,” Defiance varsity coach Tom Held said.
That win marks the 62nd consecutive league win for the Bulldogs.
The last league loss for the Bulldogs was on April 28, 2006, against Elida.
“To do it against that caliber of a team and to be that dominant, in that type of situation, it was unbelievable.”
Wapakoneta varsity baseball coach Jason Brandt said that was a game with two great pitchers and two great teams.
“Zeigler was excellent,” Brandt said. “He has his command on two solid pitches. He was working at his pace. All the credit in the world for his performance.”
Zeigler had a perfect game going into the fifth inning when AJ Etzkorn poked a single to right field.
“Our guys battled from the first inning to the last,” Brandt said. “Just a great high school baseball game.”
Almost lost in this was the spectacular performance from Wapakoneta’s Johnny Crawford.
“Give Johnny Crawford credit over there,” Held said. “Just a great pitcher’s dual. A good old-fashioned baseball game.”
Brandt said he was proud of the way Johnny played, and thought he matched Zeigler, pitch-for-pitch.
“Johnny matched Zeigler pitch-for-pitch. We let a few more guys on base. To his credit, once we let guys get on base, he did a good job of keeping them there,” Brandt said.
Defiance’s one run came on a fielder’s choice in the second inning. The Bulldogs had bases loaded with no outs, and the Redskins forfeited only one run.
“All the credit to Johnny to throw the ball as well as he did to keep us in the game,” Brandt said.
This matchup goes back to the Regional Final game last season. Wapakoneta beat Defiance, 6-1, to advance to the state tournament. Zeigler took it upon himself to work hard to avenge that loss.
“That Regional Final game meant something to him last year,” Held said. “He wanted a second chance, and he got it tonight. Hopefully down the road there will be another chance when both of us meet in the tournament again.”
Held said Zeigler posted a picture in the weight room over the winter months. It was a Wapakoneta logo. On the bottom it read:
“Regional Finals, 6-1.”
Zeigler said it was his mission to win this game.
“I was on a mission,” Zeigler said. “After losing to them, 6-1 in the regional finals, I just really wanted to win.”
Brandt said his team was ready for the challenge, and they knew the type of competition they were up against.
“When you are facing a guy with the caliber of Zeigler, you gotta be ready,” Brandy said. “We had chances, we battled. It was two great high school baseball teams going at it.”
In the bottom of the seventh inning, Andrew Hines roped a double to right center field. With one out the Redskins had a couple of chances to tie the game.
Brandon Schreiber flied out to right field the next at bat, Hines did not advance on the tag.
With two outs, Brandon Miller put the ball in play to the second baseman, and was not able to beat out the throw.
“He put the ball in play. That’s all you can ask for in that situation,” Brandt said.
Brandt said he was happy with the defensive effort Friday, especially from the glove of Marshall Gerlach at the third base corner.
“The biggest thing with our defense early in the season was getting the reps outside,” Brandt said. “The last two weeks we’ve had better weather that allows us to get outside on a regular basis. Our defense is playing the way we know their capable of playing.”
A great high school baseball game. A rematch of last year’s Regional Final. Brandt said this is not the last time he would see this team.
“Hopefully we’ll see these guys again about three weeks down the road,” Brandt said.