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2018 Baseball State Tournament Preview

Division I

By Bruce Hefflinger, Prep Baseball Report
Medina Highland: A seven seed entering the tournament, Medina Highland stunned defending Division I state champion Massillon Jackson 8-7 in eight innings in the regional finals to advance to state for the first time in school history. A five-run seventh inning sent the game to extra frames and a wild pitch plated what proved to be the winning run in the eighth for the Hornets, which trailed 6-0 after five innings. Sam Zeleznik, the top hitter on the team at .470 with a team-best 22 RBIs, had a two-run single with two outs in the seventh to tie the game. Bryce Budzinski, a Lake Erie recruit, is the top pitcher on the team (5-1, 1.98 ERA) while Jonathan Ambro started the regional finals. Lake Erie commit Jackson Miller (.313) is another standout at third base along with Ashland recruit Gavin Noble (.405) at shortstop. Seven seniors are in the starting lineup including second baseman Billy Keller, who adds pitching depth to a team that scored two runs in the bottom of the sixth to edge Mentor 3-1 in the regional semis. The biggest win leading up to regionals came against top-seeded rival Medina, 8-5, in the district finals. Highland has won 12 of 13 entering state under the direction of head coach Jay Grissom.
Olentangy Liberty: One of three first-time state participants in Division I, Olentangy Liberty has relied on strong pitching in the tournament. The districts proved to be more than exciting for the Patriots, which captured both one-run games in the last of the seventh. Sophomore Brennan Rowe drove in Mitchell Okuley with the winning run in a 5-4 district final victory over Marysville after Carson Comer was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded in the district semis to eliminate Olentangy Orange, 2-1. Lefty Mitch Milheim (9-0, 1.15 ERA), an Ohio State signee, anchors a staff that includes junior right-hander Jack Metzger (4-0, 0.78 ERA), who threw a four-hitter in an 8-1 victory over New Albany in the regional title tilt. Comer, who has signed with Alderson Broaddus, had two hits in the game as did Rowe (.378) and sophomore Corbin Parrish (.352). Okuley (.360), a junior outfielder, is another OSU commit on Liberty. Catcher Peter Atkinson and juniors Craig Lutwen (shortstop) and Justin Nelson (first base) are other key contributors for head coach Ty Brenning. Senior lefty Michael Osmond and senior righty Beau Foster add pitching depth to a team that has permitted 10 runs in five tourney games.
Anthony Wayne: The one-two pitching punch of Brock Nartker and Andrew Murphy has powered the Generals’ impressive tournament run. Nartker (9-2, 1.97 ERA, 99 strikeouts), who has signed with Wright State, fanned 10 in a three-hit 4-1 win over Toledo St. John’s in the regional semifinals before Murphy, who pitched a shutout and earned a save in districts, came up big in a 10-2 triumph over Strongsville in the finals for AW’s first trip to state. Murphy (8-0, 1.87 ERA) tossed a six-hitter against the 2017 state runners-up, striking out seven, while adding three hits. Center fielder Nick Schneider (.412) also had three hits for AW. The Generals have two shutouts in five tourney games thus far, permitting just six total runs. Braden Theis (.429), Steven Haugh (.379), Carter Holck (.356) and Murphy (.386) are other top hitters for 18th-year Anthony Wayne head coach Mark Nell, who led many of these same players to the regional finals in 2016.
Mason: The top-ranked team in the state by Prep Baseball Report and No. 7 by the OHSBCA is the only Division I squad in the field that has ever advanced to state, that coming in 1987. To do it this year, the Comets needed to claim narrow 3-2 wins in the regionals over Centerville and perennial power Cincinnati Moeller. Mason scored two runs in the first on a Cole Hartig triple and one in the second on a Harrison Johnson double to outlast Centerville behind the pitching of Ohio State commit Will Pfenning (9-0, 1.15 ERA, 109 Ks). Against Moeller, the Comets tallied one in the first on singles by Joe Powell (.409), Nick Northcut (.374, 3 HR) and Evan Haas (.341) and two in the second on a Harrison Johnson home run and a Northcut sac fly. Rollie Sheriff (8-1, 1.32 ERA) was the winning pitcher going five innings before two shutout innings in relief by Northcut (2-1, 1.04 ERA, four saves), the second-ranked senior in the state who is headed to Vanderbilt and is also the second-highest rated Ohio high school MLB draft prospect. Patrick Lantry (4-0, 1.56 ERA) brings additional pitching depth. Powell, a junior catcher, is a Cincinnati commit while another junior, J.R. Sponseller (.404, 5 HR), is an Elon recruit. Mason Holloway (.365) and Ben Kraus (.316) are other players helping the cause. The sophomore duo of Hartig (.386) and Johnson (.315, 2 HR) add to the wealth of talent assembled by head coach Curt Bly.

Division II

By Dylan Hefflinger, Prep Baseball Report
Chaminade Julienne: Getting to state for the second year in a row was far from easy for head coach Mike Barhorst and the Eagles, rated third by Prep Baseball Report and unranked by the OHSBCA. Sophomore Sebastian Gongora had a walk-off single in a 3-2 victory over Bishop Hartley in the regional semis, then the Eagles held off CHCA 5-4 in the finals with the tying run on second at game’s end. Gongora (6-1, 1.47 ERA) was the starting pitcher with Nick Wissman (6-1, 1.45 ERA) coming on in relief. Shortstop/pitcher Ryan Peltier (6-2, 2.35 ERA), a Ball State commit who was the starting pitcher in last year’s D-II state title game, had a home run and David Ernst (.300) and Ben Thomas (.250), both starters a year ago, run-scoring hits. Sophomore DH Jack Huffman had a big game in a 7-4 win over Oakwood in the districts for CJ, which is led at the plate by Peltier (.370), Andrew Simones (.358), Huffman (.351), Wissman (.328), Gongora (.313) and AJ Solomon (.300). Last year the Eagles beat Steubenville 3-0 in the state semifinals before losing 4-0 to Tallmadge in the finals.
Wapakoneta: For the second time in seven years, the Redskins will be in Columbus after surviving a three-hour-plus eight-inning regional final game with Ontario on Sunday. Ontario scored two runs in the bottom of the seventh to tie the game, but left the game-winning runner on third. Jason Brandt’s squad then tallied six in the top of the eighth to prevail, 11-5. Gage Schenk (8-0, 0.80 ERA), who is now the ace of the staff after an injury to Ohio Dominican signee Joel Roediger (5-0, 0.00 ERA), threw a shutout in a 12-0 regional semifinal victory over Firelands. Manny Vorhees, another Ohio Dominican recruit, was injured in the same game as Roediger leaving Brady Erb (2-0, 1.88 ERA) and Don Goodes (1.31 ERA) to handle the pitching chores with Schenk. Vorhees (4-0, 0.85 ERA) is expected to be good to go at state while Roediger’s availability is uncertain. VMI commit Goodes, a center fielder, is one of the best hitters in the state with a .608 average. Second baseman Vorhees (.427), shortstop Mitch Apple (.397), first baseman Erb (.400), catcher Jett Maker (.360) and Schenk (.340) lead the way at the plate for a team that averages .378 while scoring 215 runs on the season, including nine runs a game in the tourney. Wyatt Moyler (.318) is another key player. With the best record in the state at 23-1, the Redskins’ only loss came to St. Henry.
Circleville: Traditional state power Steubenville was no match for Circleville in the regional finals, a win that gave the Tigers their first state berth in school history. Butler commit Garret Gray (.415), John Burns (.307), Ethan Wolfe (.333), Garrott Kennedy (.282) and Cory Cline each came through at the plate for Circleville and head coach Brian Bigam, the Southeast District Coach of the Year this season. Brad Henry (.389) is another key contributor for the Tigers, which jumped to a 6-0 lead on Steubenville, had the lead trimmed to 6-4, then scored three insurance runs. Others that contribute are Andrew Barnhart (.378), Jake Mancini (.354) and Seth Risner (.306). Mancini (3-2, 1.30 ERA), a senior left-hander pitched Circleville to a 4-0 victory over Chillicothe Unioto in the regional semis for the unranked Tigers, winners of 15 of their last 18. Other hurlers are Gray (4-3, 3.18 ERA), Wolfe (3-2, 1.50 ERA), Barnhart (4-1, 1.75 ERA) and Burns (3-1, 2.29 ERA).
Tallmadge: The defending Division II state champions, the second-rated team in Division II by Prep Baseball Report and 17th by the OHSBCA, have been dominate in the tournament, outpointing opponents 33-1, including a pair of five-inning runrule wins. One of those came in the regional finals with the Blue Devils pounding Canfield 17-0, thanks to an 11-run third inning when Tallmadge sent 17 batters to the plate. Jared Burick (7-1, 1.80 ERA), a Wright State commit who threw 6.1 shutout innings in the 2017 state finals, was the winning pitcher and had a pair of hits as did Seth Gergely, Scott Seeker and Jake Rensel (.349). In an 8-0 blanking of Richfield Revere in the regional semis, Zach Boyd (5-2), who will play next year at Belmont, threw a five-hitter while belting a two-run home run. In addition to Burick (.384) and Boyd (.300), other Tallmadge seniors committed to Division I schools are Gergely (.398) to Purdue, Phillip Glasser (.371) to Youngstown State and Scott Seeker (.318) to Army. Junior catcher Rich Eyre (.388), junior outfielder Sam Seeker (.308) and sophomore first baseman Andrew Ayers (.343) are underclassmen helping the cause for head coach Kenny Linn. The Blue Devils, which played seven games in Florida (spring trip) and Indiana (Midwest Select PBR event) this season - losing each game - started 3-8 before winning 17 of their last 20 games.

Division III

Division III By Bruce Hefflinger, Prep Baseball Report
Coldwater: The Cavaliers are making their 20th appearance at the state tournament, with Coldwater in search of title number seven. After easily advancing to regionals, Coldwater needed a run in the bottom of the seventh inning to get past Milan Edison in the semifinals. Sam Broering hit an infield single to plate the gamewinning score. Brad Giere (6-0, 1.60 ERA) went the distance for the win. Junior Cole Frilling (7-4, 1.59 ERA), the ace of the staff, tossed a three-hitter in the finals to defeat Columbus Academy 7-2, striking out six in the process. The Cavs, which finished in a tie for third place in the Midwest Athletic Conference behind Fort Recovery and St. Henry, pounded out 11 hits and stole seven bases against Academy. The highest-ranked team left in Division III at sixth by the OHSBCA and eighth by Prep Baseball Report, Coldwater received three hits apiece from Nathan Grunden and Broering. The infield duo of junior second baseman Jacob Wenning (.414) and senior shortstop Broering (.321) lead the hitting attack along with first baseman Austin Riethman (.362) for veteran head coach Brian Harlamert, whose squad beat Fort Recovery 8-1 in the regionals.
Minford: The Falcons, rated 11th by Prep Baseball Report, needed a pair of comefrom-behind one-run wins to get out of districts. Minford beat Lucasville Valley 6-2 in the regional semis behind a seven-hitter from freshman Elijah VogelsongLewis (8.1, 2.33 ERA), who also hit a two-run infield single to put his team on top when trailing 1-0. Junior Ethan Lauder (6-1, 2.39 ERA) went the distance with nine strikeouts in a 4-1 victory over Ridgewood in the regional finals to give Minford its first state berth. Payton Davis (.305), the only senior starter on the team, had a RBI single to give the Falcons a lead they would never relinquish. The five through nine hitters in the lineup were a combined 7-12 at the plate for second-year head coach Aaron Hopper. Luke Lindamood (.333, 36 RBIs) and Lauder (.360, 30 RBIs) are the top run-producers for Minford. Darius Jordan (.375, 26 stolen bases), Nathan McCormick (.373), Vogelsong-Lewis (.360), Lauder (.360), Braden Davis (.341) and Bailey Rowe (.338) are other key hitters.
Madeira: The Mustangs did not play a seven-inning tournament game until the regionals, winning a pair of five-inning affairs and a six-inning game before nipping Waynesville 4-3 in 10 frames in the district title game. Junior right-hander Tyler Sullivan (4-1, 1.02 ERA) came through in the regional semis, tossing a four-hitter with nine strikeouts in a 5-1 win over New Middletown Madison, the run unearned. Sullivan also scored three runs for Prep Baseball Report’s 19th-ranked team, which broke a 1-1 tie with two in the sixth on a Josh Cobb (.352) two-run single and one in the seventh. Tyler Richmond (.408), Trey Waltz (.377) and Sullivan (.387) all had two hits. Sam Wirsing (5-1, 1.56 ERA), a senior going to Wright State, threw six innings of two-hit shutout ball in the regional final 4-0 win against Blanchester. Patrick Thatcher (.440) hit a two-run single for the Mustangs, which have outscored the opposition 74-6 in six tourney game in making a run to state for the first time since 2011 when fifth-year head coach Scott Stocker was an assistant. Matt Megois is the top hitter at .477 with 38 RBIs and five home runs while Nick Schroeder (.339) and Sam Wirsing (.306) also top .300. Junior Casey Wirsing (5-0, 1.15 ERA) is the third pitcher.
South Range: Not only is this the first time South Range has made it to state, but the Raiders had never been to regionals until this season. After cruising to regionals, South Range has gotten strong play from Jake Gehring. The freshman was the winning pitcher (7-2, 0.95 ERA) in a 4-1 triumph against Waynedale in the semifinals, then drove in a pair of runs in a 4-2 victory over Grand Valley in the finals. Sam Brooks (5-2, 1.75 ERA) was the winning pitcher in that contest with Brandon Youngs earning a save. Ben Rivera (.356) and Brycen James (.300), an Ashland commit, each recorded two hits in the victory. Rivera and fellow junior Jared Bajerski (.343) pace the Raiders in batting along with shortstop Youngs (.341), one of just three senior starters with James and Mike Cunningham. The five tournament wins have helped South Range and head coach Jim Hanek surpass the .500 mark on the season at 16 15.
Division IV
By Dylan Hefflinger, Prep Baseball Report 
Garfield Heights Trinity: The only time Trinity has been to state came in 1984. But first-year head coach Randy Rundgren has the Trojans headed to Columbus following a 15-7 regional final beating of Ottawa Hills in a game that Trinity took advantage of 12 walks and four hit batters while producing seven hits. The Trojans, rated 11th by Prep Baseball Report but unranked by the OHSBCA, feature nine seniors on the roster including seven starters. The NCL White Tier champions for the second year in a row had outscored the opposition 29-0 prior to the regionals. Clay Anderson and lefty Jake Visha give Rundgren two solid starters. Anderson, who had a two-run single in a five-run sixth inning against Ottawa Hills, threw a shutout in the district finals against Maplewood. Anderson and Visha, a Gannon commit, both had two hits in that game. Visha has tossed a pair of no-hitters in tourney play during wins over Windham and Warren JFK.
Fort Loramie: What a regional it was for Fort Loramie. First, the Redskins defeated defending Division IV state champion Minster 7-5 in the semifinals, avenging a 6-2 loss back on April 7. Then, Fort Loramie rallied from a 6-1 deficit to knock off Cincinnati Christian 8-7 in the finals. CJ Billing, who started on the mound but did not get out of the first inning, more than made up for it going 3-4 with seven RBIs. The junior hit a grand slam in the fifth to pull Four Loramie within 6-5, then had a two-run single in the sixth to break a 6-6 tie. Left-hander Mason Kemper (5-1) threw 3.1 innings of relief for the win to move to 7-1. Eli Rosengarten also threw for the Redskins, which used three pitchers as well in the win over Minster. Ace lefty Jared Middendorf started with Nathan Rotermann and Billing all pitching. Raterman was reinserted a second time on the hill, striking out the side in the seventh. Fort Loramie, which has won 11 of 12 under first-year head coach Jeff Sanders, had 17 hits in the win. Carter Mescher (.525), Dylan Albers (.470), Raterman (.393), Middendorf (.381), Rosengarten (.375), Devin Wehrman (.400), Mike Hoying (.350) and Shane Hilgefort (.333) are all averaging .333 or better for the Redskins, which have a team batting average of .367.
Hicksville: The one-two punch of Jake Greer and Parker Thiel has pitched Tim Shock’s Aces to the state tournament, Hicksville’s second trip to Columbus in the past four years. Greer is the ace with a 6-2 record, 1.38 ERA and 75 strikeouts in 50.2 innings. A junior, Thiel is 6-0 with a 1.83 ERA and two saves. A Sinclair signee, Greer threw 1.1 innings of shutout relief and had a pair of hits as a freshman in a 5-2 state semifinal loss to Western Reserve back in 2015. The Aces run-ruled Plymouth 11-1 in the regional finals, but needed a four-run seventh inning to outlast Lima Central Catholic in the semifinals, 8-4. Jonah Gipple had a hit to break the tie and Greer followed with a run-scoring double. Thiel came in for the save and then pitched the distance in the finals. Greer is tops on the team in batting at .507 while other main hitters are Thiel (.436), Jonah Gipple (.360), Braden Langham (.318) and Lukas Yoder (.297). Gage Yoder is another major contributor at second base and as the third pitcher.
Mowrystown Whiteoak: A 5-4 win over Reedsville Eastern in the regional final avenged one of two losses on the season for the Wildcats. But the regional semifinal victory was just as big, edging Toronto 4-3 in a battle of the top-two rated teams in the state in D-IV. Evan Brill (9-0, 0.64), who set the school record for wins in a season, threw a six-hitter in the victory over Toronto, which lost to Minster in last year’s state semifinals. Junior leadoff hitter Traeten Hamilton hit a two-run double in a three-run sixth inning for Whiteoak. Chase Butler (8-0, 2.40 ERA), Hamilton and Trever Yeager (0.57 ERA, 7, saves) all threw in the victory over Eastern. Hamilton (.422, 50 runs, 42 stolen bases), Chase Carraher (.381, 41 stolen bases), Caleb West (.388), Brill (.416) and Mason Lehr (.430) provide a strong top of the order for the Wildcats, which won their first three tournament games by at least nine runs, have outscored opponents 294-71 and set a school record for stolen bases in a season. A sophomore, Lehr (3-0, 1.29 ERA) gives more depth to the pitching staff for veteran head coach Chris Veidt, now in his 27th season in charge of the program.