BLUFFTON — After reinjuring an old football injury in the last week, it was unsure whether Johnny Crawford would play in the District Semifinal game against the Bellevue Redmen.
Crawford started on the mound for the Wapakoneta Redskins, pitching 4.0 solid innings, and batted third in the order, eventually accounting for 6 RBIs.
Crawford’s 2-run double in the third inning gave the Redskins the lead, his 3-run home run in the fifth extended the lead to seven and his RBI single in the sixth put the Redskins up 10 to end the game and advance to the District finals.
Wapakoneta defeated Bellevue, 14-4.
“I’m dealing with a pretty bad injury,” Crawford said after the game. “I injured it during football and now I re-injured it. I felt pretty confident out there.”
Crawford said the injury may have actually helped him at the plate.
“It actually help me with my hitting because I was able to stay back,” Crawford said.
Wapakoneta varsity coach Jason Brandt agreed.
““The foot injury might have been a blessing in keeping him to keep his weight back and drive the baseball,” Brandt said. “He had three solid ropes, just a good job at the plate.”
In the first inning, Bellevue jumped out to a 1-0 lead quickly and had bases loaded. Despite two fielding errors, a throwing error and a passed ball, Crawford was able to pitch out of the jam and minimize the damage.
“Three errors and a passed ball and they only get one run,” Brandt said. “We were very fortunate there. That could have been a big inning for them.”
The Redskins were blanked for two innings, stranding a runner in the first.
The third inning came around and Crawford had struck out seven batters so far. The bottom half of the inning rolled around and Crawford ripped a two-run double to right center to take the lead, 2-1. Crawford would score shortly after on an Andrew Hines bloop single to left.
The Redskins then loaded the bases, and Bellevue’s Alex Manner walked in a run. His day would be done there on the mound and the Redskins held a 4-1 lead going into the fourth inning.
But the Redmen were determined to make it a game.
Back-to-back triples off for Bellevue, and then a couple more hits tied the game at four, quickly. Crawford was able to finish out the inning, but the score was tied at 4-4.
“They got on me a little bit pitching, but I thought I was pretty confident for the most part.,” Crawford said. “Landing my foot on the mound was a little bit of a shock, a little awkward every pitch, but it was nothing too bad.”
The bottom half of the fourth the Redskins responded in a big way with a big two-out rally. Alex Koch scores from second on an attempted double play ball. The throw to first to try and complete the 4-6-3 was off and Koch scored easily. Wapak had regained the lead. Andrew Hines roped a pitch to the left field wall, putting runners on second and third with two outs. Chandler Kaeck drew the walk and Brandon Schreiber had the bases loaded.
Schreiber knocked a single through the infield, scoring two, Schreiber took second base on the throw home. Wapakoneta now lead 7-4.
Kaeck, now on third base, saw a passed ball and took off toward home, diving in to give the Redskins a four-run cushion.
To start the fifth inning, Chace Culver was now on the mound for the Redskins, and Crawford took over in left field.
“Johnny willed himself to play today. We weren’t sure on Tuesday if he was going to be able to play at all, quite honestly,” Brandt said of his starting pitcher. “We had Chace ready to go, it’s a game that these guys don’t want to lose. This time of year it’s one and done.”
Bellevue crushed a deep double in the fifth, but Culver sat the rest of them down, not allowing any runs in the fifth.
In the bottom of the fifth was a four run lead, Crawford’s 3-run homer to right field pretty much sealed the deal for the Redskins.
“Before the game I was thinking, ‘I don’t know if I’m going to be able to run … Well, I might as well just hit bombs,’” Crawford said.
A 6-3 double play in the top of the sixth by Josh Apple got Culver out of a bases loaded jam.
Then in the bottom of the sixth, the Redskins added three more runs, the last on an RBI single from Crawford to end the game on the mercy rule.
“This is the time of year that you want your best players to step up,” Brandt said. “And definitely in this game that was a step-up game for Johnny.”