MINSTER — It took four meetings for St. Marys to finally beat Wapakoneta this summer, but the wait was worthwhile.
St. Marys came back to record a 12-4 win Thursday over Wapakoneta in the losers bracket final, in the double-elimination Auglaize County ACME sectional baseball tournament, held at Hanover Street Park in Minster. With the win, St. Marys clinched a berth in the ACME district tournament which starts July 10.
St. Marys had two regular season losses to Wapak, followed by a stunning 5-4 loss Monday in the first day of the Auglaize County ACME sectional tournament.
“To come back and win this one is really huge,” St. Marys coach Rob Coffey said about finally beating Wapak. “They’re playing good ball. Everything is coming together like it’s supposed to.”
The loss ended Wapak’s summer of baseball, as the team finished with an 14-8 record.
“It’s a winning season,” Wapak head coach Willie Sammetinger said. “We’ll come back and reload next spring. Next year’s team I expect to really be good. We’re coming back with guys who have played together with some older kids involved.”
St. Marys opened the game with a 2-0 lead after the top of the first inning.
Nate Vogel singled and Jared Knous walked to open the frame. Each advanced one base on a wild pitch before an error on a ball put in play scored Vogel, while Knous was awarded a run due to fielder’s obstruction.
Tristan Becker, the hitter, advanced to second on the play. A groundout pushed Becker to third base, before another grounder retired Becker upon being thrown out at home plate by Wapak third baseman Jake Bruns for the inning’s second out.
Lotridge struck out Marshall Lininger to end the inning.
Wapak responded to the early deficit by tying the game with two runs in the bottom of the first inning.
Lotridge and Jordan Kaeck each drew walks with zero outs.
A sacrifice bunt by Chandler Kaeck moved each runner one base further. Two batters later, Bruns delivered a two-run single to tie the game at 2-2.
Wapak loaded the bases in the bottom half of the second inning, attempting to inch toward the lead again, but failed to produce any runs. The second was the first of five straight scoreless innings for Wapak.
St. Marys starting pitcher Zack Wilker settled in against the Wapak lineup.
From the third inning until the sixth, Wilker allowed just two hits and zero walks.
St. Marys took the lead for good in the top of the second inning, in which the game was halted by a 37-minute weather delay.
Play resumed with Brandon Coffey on first base after a walk. A sacrifice bunt by Mason Gross moved Coffey to second base, followed by a single by Collin Burke which pushed Coffey to third.
Nate Vogel plated both runners with a single and reached second base on a throw, giving St. Marys a 4-2 lead. Vogel scored his team’s fifth run with the help of two wild pitches.
Back-to-back walks forced Wapak starting pitcher Quinn Lotridge out of the game, replaced by Kodi Morgan, who retired two straight batters to escape the jam.
Sammetinger commented on how much the weather delay affected his team.
“A bunch,” Sammetinger said. “Mentally it took us out of the game. When you practice, it’s 90 percent physical. When you come to play in the game, it’s 90 percent mental.”
Starting in the third inning, Morgan kept the game within reach for Wapak, throwing three straight scoreless innings. Morgan, however, eventually wore down in his long relief outing, as St. Marys pulled away in the sixth inning, plating two runs to hold a 7-2 lead.
A single by Vogel and a double by Becker put runners on second and third, forcing the Wapak infield into a much more shallow depth. A line drive off the bat of Isaac Fitzgerald, which scored both runners, was just out of the reach of Lo
tridge at shortstop and would have been either caught or fielded cleanly if played from a normal infield depth.
With the game still within reach at 5-2 prior to Fitzgerald’s hit, the two runs were a break for St. Marys and a backbreaker for Wapak.
St. Marys again got to Morgan in the seventh, increasing its lead to 12-2 with five runs.
The first five hitters of the St. Marys top of the seventh each singled and scored. Two of the runs were unearned, as Burke and Vogel scored on an error.
After singling and scoring in the seventh, Vogel completed a 4-for-4 day with four singles and four runs scored, adding three RBIs.
Wapak’s Jon Eaton singled to open the seventh inning and scored on a double by Lotridge, who then scored by advancing one base on two wild pitches.
Morgan tossed 5 2/3 innings Thursday, allowing seven runs, 11 hits and one walk, with four strikeouts.
“He got tired and I probably should have changed (pitchers), but I wanted to let him finish,” Sammetinger said of Morgan. “Kodi did a great job.
“We came down to right before game time finally deciding who the starter was going to be,” he said. “In hindsight, I probably should have started Kodi.”
Wilker threw all seven innings Thursday for St. Marys to grab the win. He allowed six hits, four earned runs and five walks, striking out two.
“That was awesome,” Coffey said of Wilker’s outing Thursday. “Once Zack got settled down after that first inning, everything settled into place. We told him, ‘you’ve got a defense behind you.’”
Lotridge paced the Wapak offense with an RBI double and two runs scored, while Bruns added a single and two RBIs.
Sammetinger evaluated his team’s season upon its conclusion Thursday.
“We knew at the start of the season that we were young, had a lot of JV players and had a chance to be good or just average,” Sammetinger said. “As the season went on, we became just average.”
The Auglaize County ACME sectional tournament in Minster will conclude today, as St. Marys will face Minster in the winners bracket final.
Both teams have already clinched district berths. St. Marys needs two wins over Minster today to claim the sectional title, while Minster can win the sectional with just one victory.