AKRON — Another early deficit in a tournament game. Another comeback victory.
Russia scored four runs in the fourth inning and rallied to earn a 4-3 victory over Newark Catholic in a Division IV state semifinal on Thursday at Canal Park to earn advance to the championship game.
It’s been a common occurrence for the Raiders (24-6) during their tournament run. They trailed Cincinnati Christian and South Charleston Southeastern 2-0 in a district final and regional semifinal, respectively, before rallying to win comfortably. They trailed rival Fort Loramie 1-0 in a regional final before rallying to win by six runs.
“That’s not the way I like it, but that’s what we talked about (after falling behind),” Russia coach Kevin Phlipot said. “We’ve been in this position, we’ve had plenty of at-bats in this situation. The second time through (our lineup), we’ve hit. That’s when the good things have happened.”
The Raiders will face either Van Wert Lincolnview or Tiffin Calvert in the D-IV state title game. The game is scheduled to start at 10 a.m. on Saturday in Akron.
Lincolnview and Calvert played in the second D-IV semifinal on Thursday; the contest was not completed by press deadline, but Lincolnview led 5-0 in the third inning.
“We’ll have to take a look at them,” Phlipot said after Thursday’s win. “But we have to calm ourselves first and go get lunch.”
The Raiders had to calm down after making some early errors Thursday.
The contest — which was played in about an hour and 20 minutes — went fast early, as there were only two base runners in the first two innings.
The Green Wave (25-7) got started in the third.
Chance Brooks reached after hitting to Russia third baseman Hayden Quinter, who was charged with a throwing error.
Russia pitcher Grant Saunders then walked Grant Moore to move Brooks to second. Brooks then moved to third on a fielder’s choice.
Tanner Elwell, who reached first on the fielder’s choice, then tried to steal second with Sam Muetzel at the plate. Russia catcher Aiden Shappie threw to second, but the ball got away and rolled into center field, which allowed Brooks to score from third and give Newark Catholic a 1-0 lead.
The Green Wave added two more runs in the fourth.
Saunders hit Eli Morris with a pitch with one out, then Mason Hackett hit a single to center field, which was Newark Catholic’s first hit of the day.
Nate Ferrell flied out to center for the second field, but Shae Mummey hit a single to left field to drive in one run and push the lead to 2-0.
Another Russia error on a steal attempt led to a Newark Catholic run. Miller Hutchison was brought in as a pinch runner for Mummey. He stole second, and a throwing error by Russia short stop Xavier Phlipot then allowed Hackett to score from home and push the lead to 3-0.
But the Raiders took advantage of Newark Catholic errors in the bottom of the fourth.
Brayden Monnin hit a single to left field, then Xavier Phlipot followed a single.
Hayden Quinter and Grant Saunders then flied on a combined three pitches for two quick outs, but the Raiders wouldn’t strand the runners.
Braylon Cordonnier then ripped a grounder to second baseman Tristan Gorius, who dove to stop the ball, got on his knees and threw to first. But first baseman Eli Morris wasn’t expecting the throw, which flew towards the first-base dugout.
Cordonnier advanced to second on the error, while Phlipot advanced to third and Monnin scored to cut the gap to 3-1.
Aiden Shappie then drew a walk, and Zane Shappie followed with a double that soared over first base down the right-field line. He drove in Phlipot and Cordonnier to tie it 3-3.
“That has been his approach the entire way. He’s not afraid to hit that way,” Kevin Phlipot said. “He told me when I was at third (in the coach’s box) and he was on deck that he was going to hit it over the first baseman’s head.”
The play wasn’t done. After Zane Shappie’s hit was fielded in right and relayed to Gorius, Gorius sent a bad throw to the infielder at second, and the ball rolled into shallow left field. Aiden Shappie scored on the errant throw to put Russia ahead 4-3.
Saunders retired Newark Catholic in order in the fifth, sixth and seventh to preserve the win.
Saunders was able to get through his complete game on 76 pitches. He gave up two hits and one walk while striking out four batters.
Saunders had many quick innings, including the first, when the Green Wave’s first two batters hit into routine outs on the first pitch and the third batter struck out on three pitches.
“He was cruising that whole way,” Phlipot said. “That first inning was ridiculous. That (third and fourth), it was our mistakes behind him. He was pounding the strike zone. They attacked and they were aggressive. They weren’t necessarily easy outs, but they were early outs.
“That (first inning) was like the perfect inning for us to calm our nerves,” Phlipot said. “It was boom-boom-boom. It set the tone.”
Mummey pitched four innings and gave up five hits and one walk while striking out two batters. Braylon Bates pitched two innings in relief and gave up one hit while striking out one batter.
Russia had six hits and committed three errors. The Green Wave committed two errors.