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2019 Baseball State Tournament Preview

2019 OHSAA Baseball State Tournament Preview

By Bruce Hefflinger, Prep Baseball Report

Division I

Mentor: The trip to state has been well earned by Mentor, the 10th-ranked team in the state by Prep Baseball Report and 18th by the OHSBCA. Penn State recruit Chad Rogers, who returned from Tommy John Surgery in April, struck out eight and allowed three earned runs in a 7-5 regional final win over a talented Walsh Jesuit squad in the regional finals. The junior right-hander was backed by Kyle Beller who was 3-for-3 with three RBIs and came on to get the final out in relief with the go-ahead run at the plate. Howie Cavell hit two singles and Hal Walker scored twice in helping the Cardinals to their sixth state berth in school history and first since 2007 when Mentor was state runners-up. The Cardinals were also second in 2004 and lost in the semifinal round in 1986, 1989 and 2005. In reaching the regional finals, Mentor beat Greater Cleveland Conference rival Brunswick 1-0 in 10 innings in a rubber match, both winning on the road during league play this season, Mentor 6-5 and Brunswick 8-0. Third baseman Matt Sabin, a Baldwin-Wallace recruit, and shortstop Andrew Witte, the team’s leading hitter at .408 were first team in the GCC for Mentor, which finished second in the conference behind Solon. Senior southpaw Justin Wilson (5-0, 1.11 ERA) and junior right-hander Charlie Hawley (4-1, 1.20 ERA) were also first team.
Springboro: In becoming the first Dayton-area team to come out of the Southwest District since 2006, Springboro survived just one close contest on the tournament trail. The Panthers, rated 12th by the coaches and 13th by PBR, scored two in the seventh of the regional semis to knock off Elder, the last Greater Catholic League South team left in the tourney. Aidan Byrne had an RBI walk to tie the game and Cameron Snurr hit a sac fly to drive in Calvin Walters with the game-winning run in a 4-3 final. Ohio State commit Tyler Kean (4-0, 3.39 ERA) started and Adam Schomberg (1-0, 3 saves), a senior lefty going to Ashland, followed before Austin Fawley came in to pick up the victory. A junior righty, Fawley (1.17 ERA) then improved to 12-0 on the season going 5.2 innings in the regional-final win over Turpin. Leading 1-0, Springboro scored eights runs combined in the fifth and sixth innings for a 10-3 win. Walters, an Ohio Dominican commit, was 3-for-4 with five RBIs and Jake D’Amico scored three runs in helping Springboro to its first state appearance. Adam Berry leads the team with a .431 average while D’Amico is .426 and Logan Zier .402.
Hilliard Darby: Connor Maruniak, who was the winning pitcher in a 5-2 district-final win over Olentangy Orange, missed a start in the regional semis with illness but came back to pitch in the championship game and did not allow an earned run in 5.1 innings of a 5-3 victory over Upper Arlington, a team that had eliminated defending D-I state champion Olentangy Liberty in the district finals. Andrew Patrick had a two-run double, Nick Skelsky an RBI single and Drew Snyder a run-scoring double to give Darby its first regional championship ever. Patrick (6-0, 1.62 ERA), a sophomore committed to Wright State, also came on to earn the save for Maruniak, a junior who is 8-2 with a 1.23 ERA. In the regional semis, Seth Schmidt (5-2, 2.09 ERA) pitched a four-hitter to lead Darby, a six seed entering the sectionals, to a 4-1 win over Ohio Capital Conference-Ohio Division champion Lancaster. Drew Snyder is hitting .393, Patrick .388 and Kyle Miller .372 to lead the Panthers, rated 20th by Prep Baseball Report but unranked by the OHSBCA. Darby has won five straight conference titles.
Cleveland St. Ignatius: The Wildcats needed a five-run sixth inning to rally past Sylvania Southview 7-4 in the regional finals. Connor Mays scored the go-ahead run on a suicide squeeze and AJ Gaich, a senior committed to Yale, had a two-run single to put St. Ignatius on top. In the regional semifinals, Matthew Geraci doubled and scored on a single by Mays in the top of the fourth for the game’s only run in a 1-0 win over Amherst Steele. Andrew Mulhern (6-1, 1.29 ERA) threw six innings of two-hit ball with nine strikeouts for St. Ignatius, a number one seed that edged North Royalton 3-2 in the district title game. Senior third baseman Michael Holdsworth, a Nebraska signee, junior shortstop Michael McNamara, a Kent State recruit, and senior DH Flynn Lenehan, a Case Western commit are among the top players for St. Ignatius, ranked 12th by Prep Baseball Report and 19th by the coaches. Gaich is the top hitter at .354 while Erik Duagenti is second on the team in average at .307. A deep staff includes Mulhern, Nick Fletcher (5-1, 2.16 ERA), St. Bonaventure junior commit Luke Lashutka (4-3, 3.40 ERA), Matt Ferritto (2-1, 0.84 ERA) and Sam LaGuardia (1-0, 2.28 ERA). This marks the 14th state appearance for St. Ignatius, including 10 this century, with the lone championship coming in 2002. There were second-place finishes in 2000, 2008 and 2013.

Division II

Gates Mills Gilmour Academy: After giving up just one run in its first four tournament games, Gilmour turned to the offense to beat Benedictine 13-6 for the program’s first regional title in 11 years and first ever in Division II. Joe Hollis (7-0) pitched six innings to pick up the victory for Gilmour, which trailed 5-4 until a five-run fifth. Hollis had three RBIs for the Lancers while Marco Costabile had the go-ahead two-run double in the fifth for Gilmour, which had lost to Benedictine 15-9 during the regular season. The Lancers, ranked fifth by Prep Baseball Report and 10th by the coaches, pounded Poland Seminary 11-0 in the regional semis behind a four-hit shutout from Penn State sophomore commit Ben DeMell (10-1). Senior catcher Nick Christopher had a three-run homer for Gilmour, which had outscored the opposition 22-1 entering regionals. Junior middle infielder/pitcher Matt Christopher is another top player for head coach Jay Fowler
St. Clairsville: It was sweet revenge in the regional finals for St. Clairsville, which denied Steubenville a third trip to state in the last four years with a 4-2 triumph. It also avenged two regular-season losses to Steubenville, 6-2 and 14-0. Matthew Busby, who in the sixth inning grounded out with runners on second and third and two away in a 2-2 game, hit a bases-loaded single in the top of the eighth to drive in John Luke DeFilippo and Tyler Tonkovich for St. Clairsville’s first state berth in 22 years. Busby, the team’s leading batter at .373, had three hits in the game for St. Clairsville, which last was at state when “Lefty” Hall was in charge of the program. Hall, who was replaced as head coach by current frontman Tom Silva, died earlier this year. An eight seed entering the tournament, the unranked Red Devils won 1-0 at John Glenn in the sectionals to start a tournament run that included wins over two better-seeded teams in the districts before defeating Athens 9-2 in the regional semis. Other top hitters are DeFilippo .355, Jacob Jarvis .337, Kyle Storer .329 and Peyton Drake .328. Tonkovich (4-3) and Storer (4-2) headline the pitching for St. Clairsville, a regional participant in 2011 and 2012 making its third trip to state, the others coming in 1938 and 1997.
Dayton Chaminade Julienne: The defending Division II state champions are making a third consecutive state appearance after shutting down Granville and Hamilton Ross in the regionals. Sebastian Gongora (8-0, 1.17 ERA), a lefty, struck out nine in a 6-0 victory over Ross in the finals after Nick Wissman (10-0, 0.93), a senior righty committed to Dayton and the winning pitcher in last year’s state final against Wapakoneta, garnered a 3-1 win against Granville in the semifinals. Gongora also had an RBI in the finals, with junior catcher Jake Hieatt going 3-for-3 and sophomore second baseman AJ Solomon driving in a pair of runs. In the semis, Jack Huffman had a two-run single in a three-run first inning for the defending state champs, which last won a title in 1970 prior to the 2018 season. Senior center fielder Andrew Simones leads C-J in average at .440, runs with 28 and stolen bases with 23. Hieatt is hitting .429, Andrew Tillman .341, Gongora .329, Huffman and Solomon .306..
Van Wert: The Western Buckeye League co-champions will be making their first state appearance in school history after dominating Vermillion 13-2 in the regional finals. Nine-hole hitter Jalen McCracken, a senior going to St. Francis (Ind.), went 4-for-4 with four RBIs and two runs scored and sophomore Owen Treece (9-0, 1.14 ERA) fired a four-hitter with seven Ks to move to 9-0 on the campaign. The Cougars, which defeated last year’s D-II state runners-up Wapakoneta 7-4 in the sectional finals, road the arm of Lawson Blackmore to a 1-0 win over Bowling Green in the regional semis. The Miami signee improved to 6-1 on the season with a 1.50 ERA for Van Wert, ranked second by Prep Baseball Report and eighth by the coaches. Shortstop Jaxson Amweg (.379) and first baseman Nathan Temple (.333), will join McCracken (.444) at St. Francis next year. Senior catcher/pitcher Hayden Maples (.349, 6-0, 0.89 ERA) is an Ancilla College recruit while juniors Keaton Brown (.393), Parker Conrad (.361) and T.J. Reynolds (.323) are other key contributors for Van Wert along with senior Jack Lautzenheiser (.304). This marks the seventh time in the last 10 years the Western Buckeye League has been represented at state, along with Defiance and last year’s state runners-up Wapakoneta.

Division III

Coldwater: A return trip to state appeared unlikely, but Coldwater rallied from a 3-0 seventh-inning deficit to beat Archbold 5-4 in eight innings. Noah Miller led off the eighth with a single and scored on an error to send the Cavaliers to state for the 21st time. Jacob Wenning (10-2) pitched 7-plus innings for the win and Will Broering (1-0, 3 saves) came on for the save. Cole Frilling (8-1, 0.65 ERA), a Case Western basketball commit, threw a shutout in the regional semifinals for Coldwater, ranked second by the OHSBCA and fourth by Prep Baseball Report. Seniors Wenning (.429) and Austin Riethman (.366) along with juniors Ross Weigel (.377), Miller (.341) and Jake Hemmelgarn (.311) are the top hitters for the Cavs, which started the season losing all three games in March before going on to win the Midwest Athletic Conference title for the 31st time. Winners of six state championships, Coldwater lost to South Range 3-2 in the D-III state title game a year ago.
St. Bernard Roger Bacon: A pair of two-run victories at the regionals has Roger Bacon at state for the first time since 1968. A 2-0 win over Versailles in the regional final was the fifth shutout of the campaign for the Spartans, which had not won a district title for 23 years prior to this season. Sophomore Evan Webb had a two-run single in the fourth inning against Versailles with junior Tyler Bullock pitching 6.1 innings for the win before junior Chris Hoffmann came in to retire the final two batters. Bullock (2-0, 0.00 ERA) had thrown 15 pitches a day earlier in a 4-2 win over Cincinnati Country Day in the semifinals. Hoffmann leads the team in hitting at .395 while senior Dylan Polk, a Walsh football commit, is at 362 and freshman George Janzen .349 with Mount St. Joseph recruit Chris McDaniel .319 and Evan Kelsey .306. Sophomore Evan Webb has thrown the most innings 41.1 with a 4-3 record and 2.20 ERA. This marks the fifth state appearance ever for the program, the others coming in 1968, 1944, 1935 and 1932, with the lone state title in 1935.
West Lafayette Ridgewood: A 4-3 eight-inning win over Minford not only avenged a loss to Minford in the 2018 regional finals, but the Generals are at state for the first time ever. Junior Kaden Smith’s two-out double in the top of the eighth scored freshman Gabe Tingle with the go-ahead run for Ridgewood, which had tied the game at 3-3 with a Chase Minet RBI triple in the sixth. Cole Rogers threw a shutout in a 3-0 win over West Jefferson in the semifinals for Ridgewood, the 22nd-rated team by PBR and unranked by the coaches. The Generals, a three seed that beat both top-seeded Barnesville and second-seeded Richmond Edison at districts, gave up just three runs in four tournament games heading into regionals.
Canton Central Catholic: A Zack Wassil two-out two-run single in the top of the seventh gave CCC a 7-5 win over Apple Creek Waynedale and a trip to state for the seventh time in school history. The Crusaders, which trailed 2-0 early in the regional semifinals, scored four runs in the final inning of a 7-3 win over Edgewood featuring a two-run single from Chris Wilson. Central Catholic, which beat a pair of the best teams in the state in D-III in the districts with a 4-0 victory over Rootstown and an 8-6 win over defending state champion South Range, highlighted by a Cameron Johnson three-run double, captured state titles in 2008, 2011 and 2015. Calvin Burns (Grove City College), Johnson (Walsh), Drew Hallgren (Anderson, S.C.) and Wassil (Mount Union) are college commits for the Crusaders with Andrew Halas, the top pitcher, another standout along with juniors Austin Beck and Austin Nupp.

Division IV

Minster: Ethan Lehmkuhl and Jack Heitbrink combined to throw a one-hitter, with Lehmkuhl going the final 4.1 innings in a 1-0 win over Cincinnati Christian in the regional finals, a victory that came despite 10 walks by Minster pitchers. The Wildcats, rated ninth by Prep Baseball Report but unranked in the OHSBCA poll, plated their only run on an error in the second inning in reaching state for the fifth time since 2003 and second time in the last three years. The 2017 D-IV champions rolled past Mechanicsburg 13-2 in the regional semis with August Boehnlein knocking in five runs with three hits. Jack Olberding, who hit the first pitch of the game for a home run, added a pair of hits and two RBIs while Jacob Niemeyer produced two hits and Hietbrinnk a triple. Austin Brown went the distance allowing six hits for Minster, which tied for fifth place in the Midwest Athletic Conference with a 4-5 record. Heitbrink leads the Wildcats in batting at .494 with Olberding at .444, Brown .364, Trent Roetgerman .330 and Adam Ketner .310. Heitbrink is 6-2 with a 1.30 ERA, Brown 5-0 with a 0.93 ERA and Lehmkuhl 6-2 with a 1.99 ERA. State champs in 2011 and 2012 in addition to 2017, Minster had an impressive district with the fourth-seeded Wildcats shocking top-seeded Lincolnview 14-1 and third-seeded New Bremen. 11-2.
Jeromesville Hillsdale: Pitching has helped carry the Falcons to state. The top-ranked team in the state by Prep Baseball Report and number four by the OHSBCA has surrendered just four runs in five games during the tournament. Senior left-hander Jay Luikart, a Wright State signee, is the ace of the staff with Garrett Goodwin (8-1), a Shawnee State commit, the number two. Luikart tossed a six-hitter with 15 strikeouts to improve to 10-0 with a 0.68 ERA in moving Hillsdale to the regional finals for the first time in school history. The Falcons scored seven runs on just one hit, a bunt single, in a seven-run fourth inning of 7-1 regional semifinal win over Seneca East. Goodwin allowed two first-inning runs in the regional final before Hillsdale rallied for eight in the bottom of the first en route to a 16-2 win over New Middletown Springfield. Goodwin finished with a three-hitter helping Hillsdale to a school-record 27th victory. Luikart, the top hitter at .505 with 11 home runs, 54 RBIs and 46 runs scored, had two hits and scored twice in the first inning and finished 4-for-4 with five RBIs. Ty Wiliams, a junior batting .400, had a home run. As a team, Hillsdale is hitting an astounding .388 with 325 runs, an average of 11.2 per game. Goodwin is averaging .443, Carsten Betson .412 and Garret Crites .409 while Briar Fun has 45 RBIs with a .341 average.
Antwerp: The baseball Archers are hoping to do what the Antwerp softball team just accomplished, winning a state title. Unranked by the OHSBCA, Prep Baseball Report’s eighth-ranked squad won its first Green Meadows Conference title this season as well as first district championship prior to beating Colonel Crawford 1-0 and Kalida 4-3 in nine innings at regionals. Antwerp trailed in the finals against Kalida 3-0 after the top of the first. Austin Lichty, who has a perfect game and no-hitter as well as two shutouts in the tournament, has not allowed an earned run this season. The sophomore right-hander, who is 4-0 while also averaging .397 at the plate, is part of a one-two pitching punch with freshman left-hander Luke Krouse. The leading hitter on the team at .459, Krouse is 6-0 with a 0.59 ERA. Senior Keaton Altimus is batting .443, sophomore 3B/1B Dylan Hines .358, junior shortstop Jacob Savina.320 and senior center fielder Cole Seslar, a Findlay football recruit at wide receiver, .300. Antwerp makes it seven times in the last nine years the Green Meadows Conference has had a team at state joining Hicksville, last year’s state runners-up, and Tinora.
Toronto: It took three years but Toronto avenged a 4-1 nine-inning regional final loss to Newark Catholic in 2016 with an 11-5 victory and with it a state berth. Zac Berger and AJ Clegg each hit two-run homers in the regional championship game in helping Nate Karaffa pick up the pitching victory. Karaffa, a senior shortstop when not pitching, is an Ohio State commit averaging .578 with six home runs, 39 RBIs and 33 stolen bases with a 4-0 record on the mound and 1.97 ERA. Clegg, a junior who is 6-0 with a 1.92 ERA, threw a four-hit shutout in an 8-0 victory over Chillicothe Huntington in the regional semifinals. Prior to regionals, the Red Knights had given up just one run in four tournament games, highlighted by a 1-0 win over top-seeded Berlin Hiland in the district semifinals. Junior Lucas Gulczynski is averaging .422 for the Red Knights with senior Nick Chetock batting.415 and senior Cuyahoga CC commit Nick Sninchak at .347. Toronto, rated fifth by Prep Baseball Report and sixth by the OHSBCA, last played at state in 2017, losing to Minster in the semifinals.