AKRON — Russia hoped another comeback was in order. But no matter who the Raiders put on the mound, Berlin Hiland kept hitting.
After Russia tied it in the fourth, Hiland scored 10 unanswered runs to pull away to a 14-4 victory in the Division IV state final on Saturday afternoon at Canal Park in Akron.
“It’s disappointing, but these kids have been through a lot,” Russia coach Kevin Phlipot said. “I took us 51 years from the first time we won a state title (to win again), and we were within a day of winning two in a row.
“… It’s been an incredible run and an emotional year for all of us.”
The squad got a late start to the season after the school’s boys basketball team earned a state berth. But the Raiders again put together a banner campaign, pulling out many victories in tight situations.
Russia will lose three seniors to graduation, including Xavier Phlipot, who was a first team all-Shelby County Athletic League selection the last three years. They will also lose Ross Fiessinger and Zane Shappie to graduation.
“They were on the state team last year, they were in state basketball this year, and right back (in state this season),” Kevin Phlipot said. “They answered (the expectations). With everyone assuming we’d be back here. We did it.
“We got everybody’s best effort and we answered it every single game in the tournament until today.”
Cordonnier pitched three innings and gave up two earned runs on six hits. Cooper Francis pitched 1 2/3 innings and gave up six earned runs on four hits and a walk. Ross Fiessinger pitched 1 1/3 innings and gave up one earned run on five hits. Brayden Monnin pitched the sixth and gave up one unearned run.
“We were confident with Braylon,” Phlipot said. “I’d take him in any game two. They were on him, so we made a quick hook. We like Cooper. He’s a lefty with a ball that runs all over the place. He wasn’t the sharpest. He probably hasn’t pitched in three weeks. …You can’t expect someone to come in and save you all the time, so we just kept trying to find the next guy.
“… Pitching wise, we had no answers. We’re throwing fastballs, (our pitchers are) throwing fastballs the way I’m calling them. They’re slapping them down the right-field line or they’re hitting them hard down that way. Tried a couple curve balls, and they were not fooled about anything. We tried whatever we had.
“That (credit) is to (Hiland). They put it on us the entire way, and they didn’t let up.”
Berlin Hiland had 15 hits and committed one error. Russia had three hits and committed five errors.
“It’s a mental grind, and when you see a little bloop here, a gap here, it’s tough,” Phlipot said. “No breaks. Nothing went our way. We couldn’t overcome it. It was uncharacteristic of us. But talking to them, I told them this was a group effort. Not one play affected this outcome, not one pitching performance affected this outcome. We’re all in this together, and today wasn’t ours.”
Berlin Hiland (30-1) led 4-0 before the Raiders fought back in the bottom of the fourth.
Jude Counts was hit by a pitch and advanced to second on wild pitch. Fiessinger walked, and Jude Counts advanced to third on a passed ball.
Counts tried to score on a passed ball, but Hiland catcher Braden Kaufman tracked it down and threw back to starting pitcher Will Schlabach, who recorded the out at home plate.
But Fiessinger advanced to third on a passed ball, and Cooper Unverferth walked and advanced to second on a wild pitch.
Fiessinger scored on a wild pitch to cut the gap to 4-1, then Phlipot drew a walk.
The Hawks took out Schlabach and replaced him with Isaak Yoder on the mound.
Zane Shappie hit a liner that hit off Yoder for a single, which was the Raiders’ first hit. It drove in Unverferth to cut the gap to 4-2, then Cordonnier hit a double to deep right field to drive in another run. Brayden Monnin followed with an RBI single up the middle to drive Shappie across and tie it.
Isaak Yoder hit Hayden Quinter with a pitch to load the bases, but he then struck out Felix Francis and Counts to get out of the inning.
“I thought we had it after the fourth,” Kevin Phlipot said. “I thought we had the momentum. But then they put a six spot on the board, and I’m like, ‘maybe not.’”
Hiland retook the lead in the fifth by scoring six runs.
Nolan Yoder hit a double to right field, then Colin Coblentz hit a single up the middle and moved to second on the throw. Isaak Yoder then hit a 2-RBI double to center field to give Hiland a 6-4 lead.
Brady Yoder hit a single to right. But Russia freshman relief pitcher Cooper Francis coaxed a fly out to foul territory along the left-field line by Grady Monigold, then pinch hitter Caden Coblentz hit a fly out to right.
Francis walked Conner Beachy to load the bases, then hit Alec Weaver with a pitch to push across a run and increase the lead to three runs.
Russia replaced Francis with Fiessinger on the mound, and Cody Yoder hit an RBI single, then Nolan Yoder hit a 2-RBI single to push the lead to 10-4.
The Hawks added three in the sixth. Braden Kaufman hit an RBI single to right field, Weaver drove in a run on a fielder’s choice grounder and Beachy scored on a throwing error.
Hiland scored one runvafter an error, a hit batter and a couple of wild pitches and passed balls in the seventh.
Berlin Hiland took a lead in the first.
Alec Weaver hit a hard grounder to Phlipot at short stop. He had to force a tough throw to Counts at first. Counts had to leap to grab the throw and was off the base when Weaver stepped on it.
“That was not an easy play, but that just kind of set the tone,” Kevin Phlipot said. “That put the pressure on us. Usually, we’re the one dictating it. We couldn’t get guys out. They were able to get leadoff men on and they were able to run.”
Weaver stole second and advanced to third on a wild pitch, then Cody Yoder hit a single to right to drive him in and give the Hawks a 1-0 lead.
Yoder stole second, but Nolan Yoder hit a fly out to center field, Colin Coblentz struck out and Unverferth, the catcher, caught a pop up in fly territory by Isaak Yoder for the third out.
Phlipot grounded out and Shappie struck out to start the bottom of the first, but Schlabach hit Cordonnier with a pitch, then struggled with his control and walked Monnin and Quinter to load the bases. Schlabach regained control and struck out Francis on four pitches to end the inning.
Hiland stranded one runner in the second, and the Raiders stranded two after Schlabach walked two batters.
“We were there,” Phlipot said. “No, we didn’t earn it. It was due to (Schlabach’s walks). But if we could have scratched one or two (in the first two innings), then we would have had a life. Then after the fourth, we would have had the lead, not been tied.”
The Hawks added two runs in the third.
Cody Yoder hit a single up the middle with one out, then Nolan Yoder hit a triple over the head of Francis in right field for an RBI triple. Colin Coblentz then hit a double down the left-field line to drive in Nolan Yoder and push the lead to 3-0.
Grady Monigold led off the fourth with a single for Berlin Hiland, and Russia removed Cordonnier and replaced him with Francis. Francis coaxed consecutive ground outs, but Weaver then hit a fly to right, and Phlipot and Francis brushed against each other trying to field it. Monigold scored on the error to push the lead to 4-0.
Hiland was the top-rated team in D-IV in the final state coaches association poll, while Russia was ranked No. 5.
Contact Bryant Billing at (937) 538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.