Miller City third baseman Jared Fuka looks at the umpire as Columbus Grove's Riley Brubaker hugs the base after advancing to third on a throwing error during the teams Division IV district semi-final at Elida. The Bulldogs won the game in 11 innings. (Putnam Sentinel/Charlie Warnimont)
Miller City third baseman Jared Fuka looks at the umpire as Columbus Grove's Riley Brubaker hugs the base after advancing to third on a throwing error during the teams Division IV district semi-final at Elida. The Bulldogs won the game in 11 innings. (Putnam Sentinel/Charlie Warnimont)
ELIDA — Miller City had two golden chances to end their Division IV district semi-final against Columbus Grove before the teams got to the 11th inning.
When an opportunity for the Bulldogs to score happened in the 11th inning they took advantage of it, although it wasn't necessarily the way they drew it up.
Columbus Grove scored on a steal of home plate in the top of the 11th inning, then retired the Wildcats in the bottom of the inning to claim a 4-3 win at Ed Sandy Field. The win sends the Bulldogs (16-12) to the district finals Friday at 5 p.m. against Patrick Henry, a 2-1 winner over Holgate in the first game. Miller City saw its season end at 16-6.
“We've played Miller City twice this season and we've played 20 innings between the two games,” Columbus Grove coach Cory King said. “We wanted a little revenge since we had the bases loaded in the bottom of the seventh that first game and didn't score. This is a big win for us. We hadn't been out of the sectional for almost 20 years and it's been longer than that since we've been to the district finals. They just battled and battled and I'm really proud of my kids.”
Miller City had a chance to end this game twice as they loaded the bases in the bottom of the seventh and again in the ninth inning.
In the Wildcat seventh, Jeremy Balbaugh reached on an error to start the inning and Jackson Lammers followed with a single to right as Balbaugh raced to third and Lammers took second on the throw to third. The Bulldogs intentionally walked Hunter Berner to load the bases. With the Bulldogs infield and outfield playing in, Corbin Niese hit a sharp grounder to third that Zach Shafter fielded and threw to home to get Balbaugh. Bulldog catcher Riley Brubaker then threw to first base to complete a double play. After a walk to Adam Drummelsmith reloaded the bases, Josh Verhoff got a strikeout to end the inning.
“Zach Shafer did a great job picking the ball at third, firing to Riley Brubaker at home and Brubaker threw to first. That was an awesome doubleplay,” King said.
In the ninth, Lammers got Miller City rolling again as he reached on an infield single and moved to third base on a Berner single to left center with Berner taking second on the throw to third. Corbin Niese was intentionally walked to load the bases, but Verhoff came through again getting a popup to short and a flyball to left to end the inning.
Verhoff opened the Bulldog tenth with a double to straight away center. He never moved off second as Lammers struck out the next three Bulldogs to end the inning. After Miller City left a runner on base in the bottom of the tenth, Columbus Grove went to work on ending the game in their half of the 11th.
Logan Diller opened the inning working a walk and Shafer reached when Lammers slipped fielding his sacrifice bunt and was unable to make a strong throw to first base. Elisha Jones followed with a sacrifice bunt that moved the runners to second and third before Brubaker grounded a ball towards Lammers on the mound, who flipped to Berner at the plate who tagged out Diller sliding in. With runners on the corner, Brubaker got a big lead off first base.
Lammers threw over to first and Brubaker got caught in a run down long enough for Shafer to score the winning run before he was tagged out.
“We actually practice that play in March and in the gym. And lo and behold we needed it tonight. It worked the way it is supposed to be drawn up,” King said. “It just about didn't as he nearly went back to the bag and he would have been tagged out. After getting out of those jams the momentum was clearly on our side. I wanted something to go right for us offensively, but Jackson Lammers was on it.”
In the bottom of the 11th, Verhoff retired Miller City in order getting a strikeout to end the game.
“We had our chances in the seventh and we had our chances in the ninth,” Miller City coach Dusty Pester said. “Their kids did what they had to do to get out of them. They had that big double play and got a popup or two. Hats off to them. I think we outhit them, but we didn't play better from the standpoint of mentally and just doing things right throughout the course of the game.”
Verhoff picked up the win for Grove as he pitched five scoreless innings allowing four hits with three strikeouts and two walks. Jones went the first six innings allowing three runs on six hits with four strikeouts.
Verhoff had a single and double to lead the Bulldog offense.
Lammers took the loss for Miller City as he went seven innings allowing one run on three hits. He had 12 strikeouts and walked one. After giving up a leadoff single to Tanner Neu in the fifth, Lammers retired 15 straight Bulldog batters before Verhoff doubled in the tenth. At one point, Lammers struck out seven straight Grove batters. Ross Lehman worked four innings allowing three runs on two hits. He walked four Bulldogs and the Wildcats committed two errors when he was on the mound.