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2024 Baseball State Tournament Preview

June 3, 2024
Division I
By Dylan Hefflinger, Prep Baseball
TWINSBURG: The Tigers have found a great way to honor former head coach Jeff Luca, who died in a car accident in December, with a trip to the state tournament. A 6-3 win over North Canton Hoover propelled Twinsburg to the Final Four for the third time in school history, the others coming in 1990 and 2006. Lucas Tinter allowed two runs on five hits in six innings to pick up the victory in moving to 6-1 on the season for the 12th-rated team in the state by Prep Baseball and unranked by the Ohio High School Baseball Coaches Association. AJ Taneja had a pair of RBI singles for Twinsburg while Josh Stalnaker went 2-3 with two runs scored. Stalnaker fanned a dozen in the regional semis, a 5-0 blanking of Wooster. Twinsburg, which finished 6-17 in 2023 and 1-11 in the Suburban League, blanked Dover 3-0 behind a three-hitter from Tinter to win its first district championship since 2006. Stalnaker hit a two-run triple to put the Suburban League National Conference co-champs on top in the sixth. Kris Kimmel, one of 12 seniors on the squad, had a two-run single in the top of the seventh in a 7-5 win over Hoban in the district semis. Kimmel leads the team in batting at .397 with Stalnaker, an Ashland commit, hitting .350 to go along with a 7-1 pitching record.
OLENTANGY BERLIN: The Bears did not allow a run in the regionals, beating last year’s state runners-up Olentangy Orange 5-0 in the semifinals and Hilliard Bradley 2-0 in the finals. Lake Erie commit Kyle Haag took a no-hitter into the sixth and finished with a one-hitter, striking out 10 to send Berlin to state for the first time ever. Akron signee Taylor Bednar had a two-hitter with 10 Ks in the semifinals for the second-rated team in Ohio by Prep Baseball Report and fourth by the OHSBCA. Maddox Pulliam, another Lake Erie signee for the Bears, hit two home runs in the semis and had an RBI double in the finals. Daniel Barrera, an Anderson commit, leads Berlin in batting with a .352 average while Haag is averaging .342 and shortstop Asher Dent .341 to go along with seven home runs. Sophomore Breylen Jenzen is hitting .341 with catcher Parker McDaniels, a Cincinnati commit, batting .337. Bednar, who has the school record with 93 strikeouts, is now 9-0 on the season while Haag is 6-0 for Berlin, which had never made it to regionals before this season.
PERRYSBURG: The Yellow Jackets knocked off Lakewood St. Edward 8-2 in the regional final to make it to state for the first time in 13 years. Matt Hubbard, a Toledo commit who leads the team in batting at .464, had an RBI single in the third and two-run double in the fourth for head coach Dave Hall, who enters the state tournament with 738 coaching wins. Sophomore left-hander Kyle Palmer did not permit a run in four innings of relief for Perrysburg, which was state runners-up in its last trip to state in 2011. Hubbard threw a six-hitter in a 4-1 victory over Toledo St. Francis in the regional semifinals for the Jackets, which have outscored the opposition 36-5 in the tournament, including a 5-1 win over Sylvania Southview in the district finals behind the pitching of Adrian College commit Parker Faris, one of six Jackets headed to play baseball at the next level. Junior shortstop Connor Kessenger set a school record for runs scored this season with 41 while Hubbard set the mark for doubles with 13. Perrysburg, the 21st-ranked team in the state by Prep Baseball and the OHSBCA, is the third different Northern Lakes League team in three years to make it to state, with Sylvania Northview winning the D-I title in 2022 and Anthony Wayne losing in the semifinals last year.
MASON: Michael Bilo threw a no-hitter to lead Mason to a 3-0 win over top-ranked Moeller, giving Mason its third regional title in the past six seasons. The senior committed to George Mason struck out 10 for the sixth-rated team in the state by Prep Baseball and seventh by the OHSBCA. Anthony Sulek had an RBI triple and two-run double for the Bears, while Indiana commit Jake Hanley hit a single and double and scored twice for Mason, which had lost to Moeller 7-5 in 10 innings back in April. Mason, which was beaten by Elder in the regionals a year ago, avenged the loss in the semifinals with a 9-5 victory. Hanley, the OHSBCA D-I Player of the Year who broke the career hits record at Mason, belted two home runs and fired a one-hitter in a 5-0 district finals win over Troy and also had a home run in a 4-0 district semifinal win against St. Xavier. In addition to Bilo and Hanley, other starters headed to college to play are Drew Stevens (Ashland), Mark Rutherford (Shelton State CC), Bryce Brannon (Duke) and Alex Koelling (Ohio State). Mason, which became the first team to win six consecutive GMC championships this season, has never won state in three previous appearances, 1987, 2018 and 2022.
Division II
By Dylan Hefflinger, Prep Baseball
PARMA PADUA FRANSICAN: Lucas Palange gave up one earned run in six innings of work, Zach Zemla went 3-3 at the plate and Makhi Williams recorded the save in a 4-2 win over Napoleon, sending Padua to state for the first time since 2005. Bryden Spellacy scored on a wild pitch in the bottom of the eighth to beat Clear Fork 4-3 in the regional semis. Williams threw 2.1 innings of scoreless ball for the win in relief of Nathan Krayzel. Trey Martin, Matt Lowe and Yuri Bellina, a Baldwin Wallace commit, all had two hits for Padua, unranked by the OHSBCA and rated 24th by Prep Baseball. Padua overcame a three-run deficit with a four-run fourth in a 6-4 district semifinal win over Keystone, with Krayzel fanning 10 in four innings of relief for the win. Williams had a triple to highlight a four-run fifth in a 6-1 triumph over Rocky River in the finals for the program’s first district title since 2017. Krayzel is 6-2 pitching while Palange is 4-2 to go along with a team-high .406 average. Bellina is hitting .389 and Jacob Duliba, a Mount Union commit, .375.
HAMILTON BADIN: Chandler Taylor broke a 0-0 tie in the bottom of the sixth with a run-scoring single and Beau Chaney and Tyler Verdin combined on a three-hit shutout in a 2-0 win over Jonathan Alder, sending the sixth-ranked team in the state by both Prep Baseball and the OHSBCA to state for the 15th time. Brion Treadway's squad has now outscored their postseason opponents 50-0, including a 6-0 win over Tippecanoe in the district finals when Chaney threw six innings of shutout ball. Badin, which last appeared in the state tournament in 2022, has not won a title since 1996 when Mark Maus, now an assistant, was head coach. Rick Kunkel, another former head coach, is also an assistant for the Rams, which lost in the regional finals to finish 29-2 a year ago. Right-handed pitchers Verdin, a Heidelberg commit, Matty Helms, a Northern Kentucky recruit, and Ian Price, along with second baseman Austin Buckle are the lone seniors that see action for the Rams, which won state championships in 1991 and 1996.
INDIAN CREEK: Sylus Hyde was the winning pitcher in both regional games, a 10-8 victory over St. Clairsville in the semifinals and 7-5 win over Waverly in the finals. Eight different players had hits in the regional title game, including Hyde who had two hits and drove in three in addition to fanning five in six innings on the mound to improve to 8-2 on the season. Sal Barcalow and Landon Pownall each produced three hits while Gavin Pownall added two hits and earned the save in sending the Redskins to their first state appearance in school history. Indian Creek, which had lost to St. Clairsville three times during the season, took a 6-0 lead in the regional semifinals only to have the game tied at 8-8 before Hyde hit a two-run single in the bottom of sixth for the Redskins, ranked 18th in the state by Prep Baseball and unranked by the OHSBCA. Barcolow, now 8-1, went the distance in a 1-0 win over Tri-Valley to give Indian Creek its first district championship ever. Indian Creek, which was formed in 1994 between the consolidation of Wintersville and Mingo high schools, has three players hitting better than .400, Landon Pownall (.418), Barcalow (.412) and Ty Householder (.408).

WEST BRANCH: Jaxon Robb came through with a walk-off single to plate Anthony Perry, giving West Branch a 2-1 win over defending state champion Kenston in the regional finals. Robb, a senior who played as a freshman but did not play the past two years, came to the plate after Charlie Biskup was intentionally walked. Perry fired a six-hitter to improve to 8-0 on the season for the Warriors, at state for just the second time in school history, the other in 1973 when they finished as Class AA runners-up. The 11th-ranked team in the state by Prep Baseball and 12th by the OHSBCA defeated NDCL 1-0 in the district semis on a one-hitter by Beau Alazaus before rolling past Geneva 9-1 in the finals behind Perry, who did not permit an earned run while producing a pair of hits. Boston Mulinix also had two hits against Geneva. Alazaus is 10-1 on the season for West Branch, which has set the school record for wins in a season with 26.
Division III
By Bruce Hefflinger, Prep Baseball
MINFORD: A three-run sixth inning put Minford on top and the Falcons went on to edge Portsmouth 6-5 for their second regional championship in school history. Mason Book and Grant Wheeler hit back-to-back RBI triples to give Minford the lead, after once trailing 5-1. Carson Cronin finished with three hits, two RBIs and two runs for the 24th-rated team in Ohio by Prep Baseball and 27th by the OHSBCA. Max Lauder was the winning pitcher with Wheeler earning the save. The sixth inning was also big in the district semifinals, with Minford putting six on the board during an 11-4 win over Barnesville. Rhyan Queen went 4-4 with five RBIs to lead a 12-hit attack for Minford, which was behind 4-0 in the fifth. Cam Thacker went the distance in the district finals against Wheelersburg, allowing six hits and fanning seven helping the Falcons avenge two regular-season losses. Thacker, who threw the second perfect game in school history earlier in the year, is 10-2 on the season while Lauder is 7-2. Cronin tops the squad in batting with a .441 average while Queen is hitting .382 and Wheeler, a Mt. Vernon Nazarene commit, .376 for second-year head coach Eli Daniels. Minford’s only previous state appearance came in 2018.
MILLBURY LAKE: Lake will be going to the state tournament for the first time since 2001 after getting past perennial state power Coldwater 6-2 in the regional finals. Ryan Wagner gave up five hits and fanned five in 6.2 innings with Jay Blazevich coming in to record the final out. Blazevich had three hits for the Flyers, which reached the regional finals courtesy of a 6-1 win over Bucyrus Wynford in the regional semis behind the pitching of junior Drew Tajblik, a Toledo commit who scattered six hits while recording six strikeouts in his school-record 11th win of the season. Jack Sobzack had a pair of hits for Lake, which has not won a state game in three previous appearances, 1935, 1956 and 2001. Tajblik leads the Flyers in hitting with a .375 average while stealing a school record 34 bases this season. Sophomore catcher Gavin Kohlhoffer is batting .350 with 25 stolen bases while Blazevich carries a .340 average with 26 steals for the 11th-rated team in Ohio by Prep Baseball and fourth by the OHSBCA.
HEATH: Heath, the top-rated team in Ohio by Prep Baseball, is headed to state for the second year in a row after beating Cincinnati Christian, 4-0. Riley Baum was the winning pitcher in the regional finals for the second year in a row, throwing a two-hit shutout for the Bulldogs, ranked second in the state by the OHSBCA. Leadoff hitter Connor Corbett had three hits and Wyatt Binckley pitched six innings and had two RBIs in a 7-4 semifinal win over Cincinnati Country Day. Conner Toomey scored twice for Heath, which finished just 6-20 three years ago and 10-13 in 2022. Binckley threw a one-hitter in a 9-0 win over West Jefferson in the district finals after Jaiden Dansby came through with a walkoff double to score Baum in a 2-1 victory over Marion Pleasant in the district semis. Findlay commit Hayden Woodward, a 1B/P, is among the senior starters for a team with just two juniors in the lineup. The Licking County League champions, which lost to Harrison Central 2-1 in the state semifinals a year ago, has won state twice, in 2002 and 2007.
APPLE CREEK WAYNEDALE: The D-III state champions the past two years will be gunning for number three after defeating Perry 8-3 in the regional finals. A seven-run seventh inning rallied Waynedale to the victory, with Cam Miller, Shane Coblentz and Brayden Steiner all recording RBI hits in the frame for the Bears, giving head coach Lucas Daughery his 100th coaching win at the school. Tate Venables was the winning pitcher, allowing four hits and no earned runs over six innings in relief of starter Otto Solorzano, the winning pitcher in the past two state championship games, a 2-1 win over Milan Edison in 2022 and a 10-1 victory over Harrison Central a year ago. Coblentz, who struck out a dozen in a 2-0 district semifinal win over Tri-Valley, fanned 10 in a 4-1 victory over South Range in the regional semis. This is the fourth state appearance in school history for Waynedale, the 16th-rated team in the state by Prep Baseball and 20th by the OHSBCA.
Division IV
By Bruce Hefflinger, Prep Baseball
FORT RECOVERY: The sixth-place finisher in the Midwest Athletic Conference is a state participant after entering the postseason with a 9-11 record. Caden Grisez had a five-hitter with seven strikeouts and Gavin Faller and Grisez each produced a double in a 5-1 win over Leipsic in the regional finals. Alex Dues allowed one earned run, Troy Homan and Faller both had three hits and Reece Wendel scored four runs in a 14-4 win over Montpelier in the regional semis for the unranked Indians, which last went to state in back-to-back seasons in 2015 and 2016 when Homan was the batboy. Wendel is the top hitter on the team with a .301 batting average while Dues is 7-3 on the mound for head coach Kevin Eyink, who is one win away from his 100th coaching victory.
JEROMESVILLE HILLSDALE: Gavin Casdorph tossed a five-hit shutout, Braylen Jarvis had a single and triple and Brock Bower and Aiden Hoffman pounded out a pair of hits in a 3-0 win over Warren JFK, sending the Falcons to state for the first time since finishing as runners-up in 2019. Hillsdale, the 24th-rated team by the OHSBCA and 27th by Prep Baseball, dominated Ashtabula St. John 16-1 in the district finals after rallying past Mapleton 9-6 in the semis. Kollin Cline had a three-run double to tie the game with Mapleton at 5-5 and finished the day 4-4 at the plate.
BERLIN HILAND: The defending state champions, the No. 1 team in the state by the OHSBCA and third-ranked by Prep Baseball, will be making their sixth state appearance after an 18-0 demolition of Leesburg Fairfield in the regional finals. Hiland, which has never lost in the state semis, will take on Russia, a team the Hawks defeated 14-4 in last year’s state championship game. Hiland, which has outscored the opposition 76-9 in the tournament, has had just one close encounter in the postseason, an 8-5 victory over Strasburg-Franklin in the district finals. Trailing 5-3 in the bottom of the sixth, Cody Yoder hit a grand slam to put Hiland on top for good. Yoder leads the team in batting at .478 while Colin Coblentz is hitting .402, Caden Coblentz .369 and Brady Yoder .363. Caden Coblentz (8-1) and Finn Schneider (6-1) are the top two pitchers for head coach Chris Dages.
RUSSIA: The fourth-rated team in Ohio by Prep Baseball and the OHSBCA is back at state for the sixth time overall and third in a row. A seven-run six-inning proved to be the difference in a 12-3 win over Troy Christian in the regional title game, giving head coach Kevin Phlipot his 200th coaching victory. Leadoff hitter Felix Francis was 2-3 with three RBIs for Russia, which had eight hits, 11 walks and two HBPs in the win. Jude Counts was the winning pitcher for the Raiders, which won state in 2022 and finished second a year ago. Russia has won tournament games by a combined 61-9 this year, including a 20-1 win over Felicity Franklin in a game Ben Rinderle had a three-run homer, helping send the Raiders to its seventh consecutive regional appearance. Braylon Cordonnier, a junior committed to Marshall, has set the school record for career doubles (33), triples (9) and walks (70). Hayden Quinter holds the Russia mark for career hits (137) and Brayden Monnin for career runs (113), while Francis has established new records for runs in a season with 48 and stolen bases with 36. In addition to 2022, Russia won state in 1971 while placing second in 1975, 2017 and 2023.

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