COLUMBUS — Fort Loramie will play in Saturday’s Division IV state championship game after three consecutive close wins. It hasn’t been mistake-free baseball, but the Redskins have battled back in each and clamped down in tight situations.
Much of that is due to unsung heroes according to first-year Fort Loramie coach Jeff Sanders — some of which aren’t even on the field. He said the team will need help from them again if they want a title.
The Redskins will face Hicksville in the Div. IV state final at 10 a.m. on Saturday at Huntington Park. Hicksville beat Mowrystown Whiteoak 4-1 in a state semifinal on Thursday to advance to Saturday’s final game.
“They’re a lot like any other team here,” Sanders said of Hicksville. “They’re well-rounded, they hit, they’re fast, and they have good pitching. It’s going to take another great game by us.”
Hicksville pitcher Jake Greer allowed two hits and had 12 strikeouts in seven innings. The Aces trailed 1-0 after the first inning after an unearned run but scored two in the bottom of the first to take control.
Hicksville had five hits and one error in Thursday’s game.
The Redskins (26-6) had great performances by pitcher Jared Middendorf, third baseman CJ Billing and second baseman Shane Hilgefort in a 2-1 win over Garfield Heights Trinity on Thursday. They’ve all stepped up before — and Billing has frequently. He has had 18 RBIs in Fort Loramie’s last four tournament games.
Sanders said without a complete team effort, though, Fort Loramie wouldn’t be playing in Saturday’s title game. He pointed to a tag out at home on a throw from Eli Rosengarten to freshman catcher Darrin Hoying as an example.
“You need everyone on the field and everyone in the line to contribute,” Sanders said. “… Making plays is a big thing. We have so many unsung heroes on this team. That runner was headed for home, and a freshman catcher puts a good tag on him. Minimizing errors is a big thing, but guys who can make plays at critical times is a big factor.”
One unsung hero according to Sanders is the team’s large following. Fort Loramie had about twice as many fans as Trinity, and Sanders said it energized the team.
“Hearing that crowd, it can give you goosebumps,” Sanders said. “The Loramie crowd is unbelievable. They’ve supported us from the very beginning, through the highs and lows. The Loramie crowd really is a factor in the game. Standing on third base line today and seeing that crowd, it’s unreal.”
After using ace Middendorf on Thursday, the Redskins will choose between Nathan Raterman, Mason Kemper and Billing to start on Saturday. Raterman and Billing’s ERA are below 2.15, while Kemper has a 3.31 ERA. Kemper picked up the win in the Redskins 8-7 regional final victory over Cincinnati Christian.
“We have a group of pitchers that we can choose from and we have to look different things,” Sanders said. “We don’t have a guy like Hicksville’s (Jake Greer) who was throwing 88 or 89. We have guys we have to choose that make the most sense for us and will be the best match up.”
The Redskins have hit well against most opposing pitchers they’ve faced, but Trinity’s Jake Visha shut them down early. Fort Loramie figured him out late in the game, though, and started extending at-bats. Visha threw 38 pitches over the last 2 1/3 innings.
Sanders said he liked what he saw from the team while being forced to play small ball. The Redskins had four hits on Thursday after collecting a combined 26 in their regional wins.
Hicksville has five state appearances in program history, the most recent of which in 2015. The Aces won a state title in 1978.
Fort Loramie, which has won 20 of its last 22 games, is looking for its third state title in 11 years. The Redskins last won in 2010.
Reach Bryant Billing at 937-538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.
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