BY J. PATRICK EAKEN | MIRROR SPORTS — It seems as if a catcher’s work is never done – just ask Anthony Wayne senior Brady Theis.
The Generals baseball team saw two of their most familiar foes in the Division I district tournament last week – Springfield and Perrysburg – and Theis had to make sure the pitchers were in top form.
That didn’t stop AW from defeating both schools at Bowling Green’s Carter Park, winning a district championship and advancing to the regional tournament this Thursday and Friday at Bowling Green State University’s Warren Stellar Field.
For Theis, that meant keeping his pitchers grounded when the stakes are high in high – profile tournament games.
“I just try to focus personally on trying to keep everything in front of me and just trying to do what we can defensively,” Theis said.
“We don’t want to try and over-pitch them because then we’ll have more walks and what-not, so we just try to throw strikes, get contact and then roll over on them.”
The district semifinal saw AW sophomore pinch runner Ronnie Mitchell score the winning run on a base hit to left field by another sophomore, Hogan Heck, in the top of the sixth to beat Springfield, 4-3, on May 16.
Theis said senior pitcher Brock Nartker likes to be on top of his game, and against Springfield it was partly his job to make sure it stays that way.
“Usually I just tell them to stay loose. He is a perfectionist, as am I, but I have to tell him to stay slow and stay loose,” Theis said, and sure enough, Nartker went on to get the win.
On Friday, AW senior Andrew Murphy tossed a complete-game shutout as the Generals defeated Perrysburg, 4-0, to win the district championship.
Anthony Wayne coach Mark Nell says playing two Northern Lakes League schools in close, scrappy games during the tournament is always a test.
“It’s kind of how the NLL is in general, so the kids are used to it,” Nell said. “But tournament time is pretty emotional because the kids get it in their mind, especially the seniors, that, ‘Hey, man, this could be it.’”
This Thursday at BGSU’s Stellar Field, eighth-ranked AW (23-4) will take on St. John’s Jesuit (18-6) at 5:00 p.m. in a regional semifinal.
The winner returns at 5:00 p.m. on Friday to take on the Strongsville (15-11)-Amherst Steele (20-4) winner in the regional final with the right to move on to the state final four on the line. Steele is ranked No. 1 in Ohio in the Division I poll.
AW 4, Perrysburg 0
Nell called it – he said that nearly every year the Generals and Yellow Jackets meet for a third time in tournament play. It happened again this year.
This year it was a rubber match, though, with Perrysburg winning the first league game 10-2 and AW taking the second 1-0, behind a no-hitter by senior Brock Nartker.
This time Murphy was on the mound with a breaking pitch very comparable to Nartker’s – hard to figure out when he is on with it.
Murphy went seven innings, striking out six, walking one and allowing just four hits in pitching a shutout. He only needed 98 pitches, of which 69 were strikes.
Meanwhile, AW had just five hits but managed to score all four runs in the bottom of the fourth and then let Murphy and his defense do their job the rest of the way.
Senior Steve Haugh led off the fourth with a single on a hard-hit ground ball up the middle but was thrown out when Theis bunted into a fielder’s choice.
Theis advanced to second when junior Carter Holck singled on another hard-hit ground ball that found a hole on the left side of the infield. That’s when Perrysburg’s defense helped the Generals out a bit.
Mitchell, who was pinch running for Theis, scored when Murphy reached on an error by Perrysburg shortstop Ben Boros.
AW junior Camron Kottenbrock then singled to left field, scoring Holck, and Murphy and Kottenbrock both advanced on steals, setting the table for Nartker.
Murphy was thrown out at home by Perrysburg pitcher Griffin Parrill on a ground ball, however, but Kottenbrock took third while Nartker reached first on a fielder’s choice.
Parrill then walked Hogan Heck, loading the bases, and senior Nick Schneider took advantage by hitting a line drive to center, scoring both Kottenbrock and Nartker.
Haugh was the only AW batter to get two hits off Parrill or starter Bryan Mitchell.
For Perrysburg, Drew Sims was 2-for-3 and Clay Denstorff and Luke Borer also had base hits.
Taking the loss, Mitchell allowed three earned runs and four hits in 3.1 innings on the hill, Parrill walked one, allowed one run and one hit, and Anthony Kyle closed for the Jackets, striking out one batter.
The Generals immediately went on the attack in the district semifinal win over Springfield, getting their first two batters home to take an early 2-0 lead.
Schneider led off the bottom of the first with a double and then junior Connor Judy and Haugh singled – all three hitting shots to left field off Springfield starter Tristan Todorowski.
Schneider scored on Haugh’s hit and Judy scored on a double-steal attempt by the Generals, which saw Haugh make the third out on a rundown between first and second base.
Springfield performed some similar offensive magic, getting its first two batters, junior Matt McDougle and senior Adam Beale, on with base hits to lead off the top of the third.
Both scored on a line drive up the middle by junior Carter McGannon, tying the game at two runs apiece.
In the bottom of the fourth, Murphy was hit by a pitch, stole second, advanced to third when Kottenbrock hit into a fielder’s choice and scored on a wild pitch to put the Generals up 3-2.
The Blue Devils tied it up in the sixth when McGannon led off with a line drive to right field, advanced on a sacrifice bunt by junior Kyle Rhonehouse and a ground-out by Dylan Hall and then scored on a wild pitch.
AW scored the winning run in the bottom of the frame, however, with all the offense coming with two outs.
Holck led off the inning with a single up the middle, but Murphy’s bunt attempt popped into Todorowski’s glove, leading to a double play when junior Carter Holck was caught off guard and forced on first.
Kottenbrock took the count full and then reached on a walk and advanced when Nartker also walked after taking the count full.
Heck then hit a liner to right, scoring Mitchell, who was running for Kotten-brock.
Nell was pleased to see Mitchell score the winning run and his team not give up after the double play and get the needed score.
“That’s why you put nine guys into the lineup,” he said. “We didn’t execute on the bunt there – that didn’t happen and then guys picked him up. That’s why it’s a great culture and when our kids work hard they get along. ‘Hogy’ (Hogan Heck) got a good away pitch and he went with it.
“We put Ronnie out there because he can fly and brought him up from the JV for that reason. He’s going to be a good ballplayer, but that’s why he is here because he can move. He’s one of the fastest kids in the school.”
Nartker, who started the game on the mound, then allowed two base runners to reach in the top of the seventh, but he also struck out two batters.
Murphy came in for the final out, getting Rhone-house to hit a pop fly to Holck and preserve the save and AW victory.
Nartker went 6.2 innings, struck out nine, walked four and allowed seven hits and three earned runs in getting the win. He threw 125 pitches, 72 of them strikes, and Nell was forced to take him out by rule.
“Brock, sometimes he’s up and down throughout a game, and as a coach you’ve got to let it go a little bit. He had a rough sixth inning and he wanted to finish the game, but he wasn’t allowed by rule.”
In addition, Mitchell was not the only pinch runner Nell employed. Jacob Kirby ran for Nartker in the sixth and Jacob Neumeyer ran for Theis in the fourth.
“We bring 22 guys for a reason. I used three pinch runners today throughout the game,” Nell said.
“The only reason I got Brock out of there was to get him into the dugout and rest when I had a pinch runner for him in the third. He’s a good base runner, too, but I wanted him to sit down and rest before he went out there that last inning.”
Most of AW’s damage offensively, when it mattered, was done by the five through nine hitters: Holck, Murphy, Kottenbrock, Nartker and Heck.
“Our top of the order did not get a whole lot of hits today, but they started out with a nice hit. And then Hogy, nine-hole hitter, stepped up and got it done,” Nell said.
For Springfield, Tod-orowski allowed six hits and two earned runs over six innings, struck out four and walked five.
Schneider’s double was AW’s only extra-base hit, but Judy, Haugh, Holck, Murphy and Heck all had base hits.
McGannon went 2-for-3 and Todorowski 2-for-4 for Springfield, and also getting hits were junior Jacob Heizelman, junior Matt McDougle and senior Adam Beale.