COLUMBUS — Fort Loramie had motivation heading into the 2018 baseball season after an 8-4 regional semifinal loss to Shelby County Athletic League rival Russia in May of 2017. The Redskins stranded nine runners as the Raiders pulled away late.
The Redskins got more motivation last March from a loss that was fresh on some players’ minds when baseball season began.
Five players on Fort Loramie’s state champion baseball team played for the school’s basketball team, which was ranked in state polls through most of the season. Fort Loramie looked like the favorite to win the southwest regional and earn a state berth but lost to eventual Div. IV state champion Marion Local in a regional final.
The Redskins didn’t make a field goal in the first 12 minutes of the 62-47 regional loss to the Flyers, who they beat in regular season.
There’s no more regional losses for the Redskins to second-guess — or any postseason losses. They battled back in their last five baseball tournament games and came away with the Div. IV state title after an 8-4 win over Hicksville last Saturday.
“Coming into the spring, that was our goal the whole time,” Fort Loramie shortstop Eli Rosengarten said after Saturday’s win. “Make the state, don’t lose in regionals. Once we made it, we knew we couldn’t stop there, we had to win it. Sure enough, we did.”
Rosengarten, a junior, is one of five baseball players who also played basketball. Senior Austin Siegel and juniors Carter Mescher, Nathan Raterman and Mason Kemper also played basketball.
Rosengarten said the group’s experience in so many regional games helped with playing in the state tournament last weekend in Columbus. The Redskins also made a basketball regional in 2017.
“We’re used to playing in front of big crowds — that definitely helped,” Rosengarten said. “We filled Trent (Arena) in regional basketball. We’re not nervous — I wasn’t nervous at all coming into this game.”
Regular season loss to Russia sparked turnaround
Another loss to Russia on the diamond helped motivate the Redskins (27-6) this season.
Fort Loramie lost three consecutive games in mid-April to fall to 6-4. The last of the three losses was an 11-1 loss to Russia, which was the only run-rule defeat the team suffered all season.
“We sort of had some long talks and long sprints in the outfield,” first-year coach Jeff Sanders said of the losing streak. “We kind of decided that enough was enough, we weren’t going to play that way anymore. We worked a little bit harder, fixed things we should have been doing right.
“From that point on, we played a doubleheader at our place and beat two really good teams. Out bats were just alive, and from that point on, we had fixed what we needed to fix. We were ready to roll, and we did.”
The home loss to the Raiders came on April 20, less than 12 hours before Fort Loramie hosted its annual invitational. The Redskins beat Elida 3-2 and earned an 11-1 win over rival Minster to win the invite.
The two wins started a five-game winning streak for Fort Loramie. The Redskins won 21 of their last 23 games. Their two losses came to Coldwater (Div. III state runner-up) and St. Henry (ranked sixth in final D-IV state poll).
Sanders said the players deserve the credit for the turnaround.
“It’s not me, I just push buttons and let them do the work,” Sanders said. “They have to still perform, they still have to do everything they need to do. I can’t hit for them, I can’t pitch for them, I can’t field for them. Ultimately, what you’ve got to do is just get them prepared and ready to play. It’s great to see these kids get what they deserved.”
Coldwater borrows Fort Loramie batting helmets
Coldwater’s baseball team got an assist from Fort Loramie on Saturday.
The Cavaliers, which played Canfield South Range in the Division III state title game on Saturday, left their batting helmets in Coldwater on Saturday.
Luckily for them, Fort Loramie hadn’t left Columbus yet. Fort Loramie athletic director Damon Smith arranged for the Cavaliers to borrow the helmets and drop them off on their way back home.
The helmets didn’t have the same effect on the Cavaliers as they did on Fort Loramie, though. Coldwater lost 3-2.
Reach Bryant Billing at 937-538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.