XENIA — The Anna Rockets appeared on the verge of punching their ticket to Columbus and the Division 3 State Baseball Tournament, leading 5-1 after three innings Friday.
But the Versailles Tigers clawed back within a run, then took full advantage of wildness from Anna pitchers to score twice in the sixth. They survived a serious threat from the Rockets in the same inning, and came away with a 6-5 victory in the D-3 regional championship in Xenia.
The loss ended Anna’s outstanding season at 25-4-1.
Versailles is now 22-4 and will play in the D-3 state semifinals on Friday at 10 a.m. against either top-ranked Berlin Hiland or Minford, at Huntington Park in Columbus.
“We had them where we wanted them,” said Anna head coach Kristian Althauser. “We got off to a great start and led 5-1, but then in the third, they had a couple of seeing-eye hits and a bunt that took a weird bounce and stopped right on the foul line. And they were able to get a couple of runs.”
Still, the Rockets led 5-3, but Versailles added another run in the top of the fifth to make it 5-4.
Meanwhile, Anna starter Alex Brinkman was overpowering, striking out seven Tigers in four innings. But Althauser didn’t want him going any farther.
“Alex settled down and was pitching real well,” Althauser said. “But he was way up in the pitch count, and he had those two innings (Thursday). So we changed pitchers in the fifth. After that we struggled to find the zone. But it’s not the kids’ fault. That was a big moment for those kids to be in. And at the same time, all of a sudden we couldn’t come up with the key hit when we needed it.”
Versailles got a run in the top of the first, but Anna came right back in the bottom of the first to plate three. A walk and a fielder’s choice on which all runners were safe set the table for leading hitter Luke Albers, and he responded with a two-run triple. Aidan Endsley then plated Albers with a sacrifice fly to make it 3-1.
It stayed that way until the bottom of the third, when Anna tacked on two more. Endsley singled and then Kain Luthman blasted his third home run of the regional tournament to make it 5-1. He had two homers in the easy win over Marion Pleasant on Thursday.
But the Tigers got back in it in the middle innings, and trailed only 5-4 going to the top of the sixth. That’s when the Rocket pitchers really struggled to find the plate. It went walk, walk, hit-by-pitch, walk, walk to plate two runs and give the Tigers the lead.
In the bottom of the sixth, however, the Rockets loaded the bases with the dangerous Luthman coming up. He hit one out to left, but foul. The Tigers were then able to get him out on the next pitch to end a huge threat.
“It’s a tough way to lose, but this senior class has been unbelievable,” Althauser said. “They have 85 wins in four years, three district titles and a regional runner-up. They’ve shown the way we want to play baseball at Anna, and now it’s up to the rest of the kids. We’re really going to miss those guys.”
Alners finished 2 for 4 with two RBIs, and Luthman also drove in two.
J. Niekamp was 2 for 4 for the Tigers.
Vers.`100 212 0`6`6`1
Anna`302 000 0`5`8`3
Niekamp, Heitkamp (4) (WP), K. McEldowney (6), B. McEldowney (7) (S) and Subler; Brinkman, Lindsey (5) (LP), Watren (6), Boyd (6) and White.
Records: Anna 25-4-1, Versailles 22-4.
Versailles’ next game: Friday, state semifinals in Columbus, 10 a.m. vs. Berlin Hiland-Minford winner.