Wapak wins ninth straight sectional crown

Staff Writer

After a thrilling comeback victory in the sectional final, Wapakoneta senior shortstop Maddux Liles summed up the winning strategy of the Redskins.

“Small ball wins games,” Liles said after going 2-for-3 with two singles in the Redskins, 3-1, win Friday against the Bath Wildcats at Wapakoneta High School in the sectional final.
Liles drove in the go-ahead run in the fifth inning after varsity baseball coach Jason Brandt’s ball club played small ball with three consecutive bunts to knot the score after the Bath Wildcats jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the top of the fourth.

“I hit the ball off the handle. When I hit it, I thought it was going to be a ground out, but when I looked it was already in left field and thought ‘sweet,’ ” said Liles, who flashed a smile when he exclaimed this makes the ninth consecutive sectional title for the Redskins. “I just watched the throw come in and I took off for second base.”

He never saw the ball bound over Bath third baseman Jeremiah Bolon.

“We were really trying to attack first-pitch fastballs so he wouldn’t throw us a curveball and striking us out,” Liles said. “We wanted to be more aggressive, attack the first pitch and try to get a hit and get guys on base.”

Junior third baseman Wyatt Moyler, batting sixth in the line-up, stroked a single to centerfield.

Brandt elected to have junior designated hitter Bubba Miller bunt Moyler over to second. Junior right fielder Gage Schenk bunted just to the right and in front of the mound dirt where Bath starting pitcher Kaden Sullivan turned too quickly to look to first and never got a firm grasp of the ball, putting runners at the corner.

With one out, junior left fielder Joel Roediger, who already had a push bunt past the pitcher in his first at-bat, laid down a safety squeeze bunt down the first base line. Sullivan fielded the ball and his throw nipped Roediger at first and setting the stage for Liles.

“I haven’t done in a game situation, but we do practice it quite a bit,” Roediger said. “It is one of those things you keep in your back pocket for a game like this. They scored first and we were kind of down, but we got a chance to use it and we pulled it out, got the run across and it was a morale booster. We were then able to plate a couple of more runs.”

Roediger, who had several bunt hits during the season, thought about bunting on his own as he approached the plate for his pivotal at-bat.

“I just go up there and make it look as believable as you can,” Roediger said. “You want to check the third baseman, move up in the box and check the other fielders and hope you get it in the right spot ecause guys will make great plays on them and they won’t make great plays so you just hope for the best.”

Brandt said the safety squeeze is a new weapon they put in their quiver of weapons. They tried it earlier in the year without much success.

“You have to have confidence in your batter and it was a good job by Joel to get that down and he is probably one of the best guys to do that,” Brandt said. “It was key to get that as our tying run and you could see our dugout respond from there and they became a little more vocal.”

Liles ripped an inside fastball to third base which hit the lip of the infield grass and bounded over Bolon’s head, plating Roediger who was at second. Liles crossed the plate when senior catcher Nate Schroer hit a 2-2 pitch on a line to left field.

The Redskins did not threaten in any other inning against Sullivan, with only Liles reaching second base in the first inning and Vorhees reaching second base in the fourth inning.

Sullivan, who only threw 71 pitches in his six innings of work, needed 31 to make it through the first two innings, but he struck out six Wapak batters, with five taking a third pitch strike.

Vorhees worked economically with his pitches through the first three innings, needing only 36 pitches. He kept his pitch count low despite having tow work out of a jam in the third inning when the Wildcats’ center fielder Logan Shafer walked with one out. He went to third on a single up the middle by shortstop Ryan Gossard. Second baseman Logan Magrum tried to put down a safety squeeze, but Vorhees was able to freeze the runner at third and still throw out Magrum despite slippiing on the grass.

The Wildcats touched Vorhees for an unearned run in the fourth when left fielder Chad Frey walked with one out and stole second base. After Sullivan struck out, first baseman Bo Gross hit a slow grounder to second baseman Mitch Apple which went under his glove. Right fielder Jeremy Berens singled, but Vorhees struck out Shafer to end the threat.

“We are real proud of these guys,” Brandt said as his team travels for a 2 p.m. game Thursday at Patrick Henry High School. “This is our ninth straight sectional title and that is unheard of nowadays.”