TIFFIN — The Bryan Golden Bears had been on the verge of breaking through for a big inning all game Thursday. The Wapakoneta Redskins, meanwhile, were thirsting for chances to score all game long.
In the seventh inning, finally, the Bears broke through to unlock a 1-1 tie.
Bryan tallied two runs in the top of the seventh inning to get past the Redskins in a high school baseball Division II, Region 6 semifinal at Heminger Field hosted by Tiffin University.
“To be 1-1 going into the seventh, that’s what you expect in a regional game,” Wapakoneta coach Jason Brandt said. “You don’t expect it to be a blowout one way or the other.”
Nate Rau led the top of the seventh with his third single of the day, then Jordan Bostater moved Rau to third on a single.
Austin Martin batted in both runners with a single to right field. Martin was thrown out at second base trying to advance. After an Ian Morr single with zero outs for Bryan’s fourth straight hit, Kodi Morgan replaced Redskins starting pitcher Chace Culver, who stepped off the mound for the final time of his high school career.
Wapakoneta contained Bryan’s output to two runs in the seventh, which put the Redskins in a position they found themselves Saturday in the district championship — trailing two runs entering their final at-bat.
Jordan Kaeck notched an infield single with two outs, but the Bears’ starting pitcher Bailey Martin struck out the next batter to clinch the regional win, finishing off a three-hitter against Wapakoneta.
With the win, Bryan advanced to the Region 6 championship game, which will be played at 5 p.m. today against Perkins. The winner of the game today will make an appearance in the state tournament.
“They outplayed us, outpitched us and played better defense,” Brandt said. “Hats off to Bryan. I hope they win (today).”
The Bears began the scoring in the third.
Thomas Martin reached on an error to start the inning and scored on a sacrifice fly by Jordan Bostater, putting Wapakoneta into its fourth straight deficit in this year’s tournament.
Bryan stranded at least one runner in every inning in the game Thursday, including the bases loaded in the third and fifth innings.
Wapakoneta routinely made solid plays defensively just to keep pace with Bryan, one of which was Keaton Metz taking away a base hit from Derek Knisely with two outs and a runner on third in the sixth.
The Redskins had only two baserunners outside of the fourth inning Thursday.
Quinn Lotridge and Adam Henderson each walked with zero outs to start the fourth. Lotridge scored the Redskins’ first run when Chandler Kaeck reached on an error, while Henderson advanced to third.
Henderson was tagged out in a rundown between third base and home plate after a fielder’s choice by Culver.
Nate Kaeck followed with a single which would have scored Henderson to give Wapakoneta a 2-1 lead.
“Martin did a great job keeping us off the bases other than the fourth inning,” Brandt said. “We ran ourselves out of that inning. Things could have changed real quick there.”
With the bases loaded, Martin recovered with a forceout at home and a strikeout, as Wapakoneta stranded the bases loaded.
Martin pitched all seven innings for the win. He allowed one unearned run, three hits and two walks, striking out six.
Culver had a single in the second but was picked off first base.
“To have one of our worst offensive outings, I don’t think it was us. It was him,” Brandt said of Martin.
The Bears had 10 hits Thursday against Culver, who had won all three of Wapakoneta’s tournament games so far.
Culver took the loss, allowing two earned runs and four walks. He struck out three.
For the final out of the top of the seventh, Bryan’s Paris Creek ran over Redskins first baseman Chandler Kaeck on an infield pop-up. Creek was ruled out on runner interference. Kaeck stayed on the ground for a couple minutes before slowly walking off the field.
The Redskins finished their 2014 season with a 20-10 record, a 6-3 record in Western Buckeye League play, a sectional title and their third straight district title.
Wapakoneta had virtually a brand-new roster entering this season, as a huge senior class graduated after last season.
Culver and Chandler Kaeck were the only returning letterwinners.
“It’s an awesome feeling for our program,” Brandt said. “Our kids battled from day one. I don’t think anyone outside of our program expected it. I like that. These kids played their game. The seniors did a wonderful job of leading by example. Our underclassmen stepped up.
“This is no small accomplishment. We’re playing today. A lot of teams would wish to play. A lot of years I’m emotional, right now I’m emotional happy. This year’s class picked it up right where they left off. That’s what you expect senior classes to do.”