SPRINGFIELD — Fort Loramie saw a big early lead disappear in a Division IV regional semifinal against rival Minster on Thursday at Carleton Davidson Stadium in Springfield.
That wasn’t a big deal to any one on the team. Coach Jeff Sanders said as long as the team kept hitting, he knew they’d pull ahead.
The Redskins kept hitting and earned a win in the seventh. Fort Loramie scored two runs and then struck out three Minster batters in the bottom half of the inning to secure a 7-5 win.
Carter Mescher hit a single close to the left field line to score a run and put the Redskins up 6-5 in the seventh and Dylan Albers hit a single on a grounder to boost the lead to two runs.
“We just all had to start from the first batter,” Mescher said of the seventh inning. “Once the first batter gets on, you just have to keep moving them over. It’s just a lot of small ball. Once you get one on, the next batter’s going to move them over the best they can.
“When I got up, I got jammed inside and got a blooper, but it will do.”
Fort Loramie scored five runs in the second inning to take a 5-0 lead, but Minster scored one in the third, three in the fourth and one in the fifth to tie it.
“I was a little nervous, but I know our guys, we never stop fighting,” Mescher said. “That’s what I love about these guys. No matter what, we always fight through. We’re one big family.”
The Redskins (24-6) had 17 hits against three Minster pitchers. They left 12 runners on base during the game, including four in the fifth and sixth innings.
“We had to buckle down mentally and know that we had an offense that can score runs,” Sanders said. “It’s nothing to be fearful of, that it’s a tie game. You just have to buckle down and have faith in each other that we’re going to score some more runs.
“Our pitchers were going to battle — and they did.”
Fort Loramie used three pitchers — including starter Jared Middendorf and reliever Nathan Ratermann, who were both pulled out and reinserted. Ratermann finished the game by striking out Minster’s Adam Knapke, Jacob Hoying and Jack Olberding in the seventh.
“We knew that it was win or go home, and we were going to exhaust every single resource and every single possibility we had,” Sanders said.
“… When Jared went out, I know he was not happy with himself. But I told him that he may need to go back in, and that we may need him to redeem himself. And he did. He came back in and he did great. He kind of sputtered a little bit, and then we brought Ratermann back in, and he did great.”
The victory puts the Redskins in a regional final against Cincinnati Christian on Friday in Springfield. The Cougars beat Russia 6-1 in Thursday’s first regional semifinal.
Fort Loramie, which lost to Russia in a regional semifinal last year, last made a regional final in 2010. The Redskins went on to win the D-IV state title.
Sanders, who is in his first season as coach, said he’s happy the team’s four seniors will get to play for a state berth.
“We lost here last year (to Russia) and we never got the big hit,” Sanders said. “We had runners on base like tonight, and we never got that big hit. Tonight, we did.”
Minster finishes 22-8 overall. The Wildcats, which won the Div. IV title last year, stranded 10 runners.
“We just didn’t get that that hit today,” Minster coach Mike Wiss said. “… (Fort Loramie) put good swings on the baseball, from one to nine. They’re very good and they’re very worthy of where they’re at. Our guys fought their tails off. I’m proud of them.”
The rivals split regular season games. The Wildcats won 6-2 on April 7 in Minster while the Redskins won 11-1 on April 21 in Fort Loramie.
“We knew that they do some many little things right,” Sanders said. “It was going to take some extraordinary efforts by our guys, and we had them. Our pitchers were reinserted and asked to throw strikes in critical situations, and we had guys with runners on bases being asked to execute a good at-bat, and they did.”
After’s Minster’s Alex Lehmkuhl struck out Mike Hoying to start the seventh, Devin Wehrman singled to center field and then moved to second on a wild pitch. Shane Higlefort then hit a blooper single to center field that fell near two outfielders.
Mescher hit a single along the left field line to score Wehrman and put the Redskins up 6-5, and Albers hit a single on a grounder to center field to score Higlefort and boost the lead to two runs.
“I don’t think there was any magic formula or anything,” Sanders said. “We noticed we were seeing a lot of first pitch fastballs right down the middle. I told the kids, ‘Look, he’s trying to get ahead in the count, he might throw on down the middle on first pitch. Be ready.’ And sure enough, three of our hits in that inning were on first-pitch fastballs. But credit to our kids. They had to perform, and they did.”
August Boehnlein reached on an error for Minster in the seventh with one out, but the Wildcats’ last two batters struck out against Ratermann.
Five consecutive hits with two outs helped Fort Loramie build its early 5-0 lead in the second.
Devin Wehrman hit an outfield double to put the Redskins ahead 1-0. Mescher then followed with a double to center field to score another run, and Albers followed with a double to left center field to score two runs. CJ Billing then ripped a grounder along the third base line to put the Redskins up 5-0.
Minster scored a run on an RBI single to center field by Isaac Schmiesing in the third to cut the Redskins’ lead to 5-1.
The Wildcats then scored three in the fourth. Hoying hit a single to right field to load the bases with one out, and Olberding hit a flyout to right field that scored one run.
With Schmiesing at the plate, Middendorf threw a wild pitch which allowed Boehnlein to score from third.
Sanders then replaced Middendorf with Ratermann. Schmiesing hit a single along the left field line off Ratermann to score another run and bring the Wildcats within 5-4. Lehmkuhl flied out to center field to end the inning.
Ratermann hit Jared Huelsman with a pitch to start the fifth and then walked Jack Heitbrink. Sanders then brought in Billing to pitch in relief of Ratermann, but Billing walked Austin Shinabery to load the bases. Knapke then hit into a fielder’s choice to tie the score 5-5.
Billing then walked Boehnlein to load the bases. Sanders took Billing out and reinserted Middendorf, who struck out Hoying and forced Olberding to hit into a fly out to end the inning.