BY ANDY ROWER | MIRROR SPORTS — Maumee’s baseball team completed a season sweep over archrival Perrysburg at Bowling Green’s Carter Park on May 24, and in doing so finished its 2018 season at 13-13 (6-8 in Northern Lakes League play).
“From where we started, it was a good turnaround to the season,” said Maumee coach Cam Coutcher. “At the tournament draw we were 5-7, so to end like that was pretty incredible.
“I’m just very proud of our guys for the way that they fought and the way that they improved throughout the season.”
With both teams starting one of the conference’s top hurlers in Yellow Jackets senior Payton Faris and Panthers senior Justin Studenka, it was not surprising that things quickly turned into a pitchers’ duel.
In fact, a first-inning single by Maumee senior leftfielder Caleb Brown and a second-inning double from Perrysburg senior designated hitter Griffin Parrill were the game’s only hits through four full innings.
“I’m going to miss Caleb very much,” Coutcher said. “He’s probably one of my favorite guys that I’ve ever coached. He just does everything the way you want it done. Coaching him is one thing, but I’ve never had to correct him. He’s just a great kid.”
Yellow Jackets junior shortstop Ben Boros and Studenka next managed fifth-inning singles, but the stanza still ended in a scoreless tie.
With the Panthers having already stranded both Brown and Studenka in scoring position up to that point, Perrysburg marooned its second runner of the night on second after junior centerfielder Cameron Githens and sophomore third baseman Devin Cavanagh hit back-to-back two-out singles in the sixth.
Maumee’s seventh inning saw senior centerfielder Devon Cleghorn fly out to the left-field warning track and Studenka notch his second single in three at-bats, but it wasn’t enough to keep the contest from going into an extra inning.
The Yellow Jackets again got runners on first and second after a bloop single by sophomore rightfielder Luke Borer and a two-out walk from Githens, but Studenka escaped any real damage by serving up his eighth fly-out of the night.
“Justin is a great kid,” Coutcher said. “He’s a workhorse and would do whatever you ask him to do. He’s as solid and steady as they go. I’m very happy that he was able to finish out his senior season that way. It’s just a testament to his career here.”
The Panthers responded with a leadoff single by senior second baseman Devin Schiavone, who then stole second after a failed bunt attempt led to an out.
Junior pinch-hitter Blake Adams followed by drawing a walk but was immediately thrown out at second when Brown reached base on a fielder’s choice.
During the play, though, Schiavone dashed from second base to home plate when Perrysburg committed an error while trying to turn the double play from second to first – effectively ending another exciting year for Maumee with a victory.
“I don’t know if there’s a guy who really loves baseball as much as Devin does,” Coutcher said. “He never missed a workout in the summer, he played on a fall team and was at everything he could be in the winter. He’s earned everything he’s had and he’s really impressed me with his attitude.”
Studenka earned the win after allowing just five hits and walking none in a complete-game shutout. The future Owens Express baseball player also led the Panthers batters by going 2-for-3 from the plate.
“I knew going into this that it was our last shot,” Studenka said. “It felt good to go out with a bang.”
Studenka said the prospect of starting his college baseball career was “very exciting.”
“I’ve loved baseball my entire life and the opportunity to play even two years at Owens is fantastic,” he said.
Juniors Matt Butler and Austin Pauken contributed sacrifice bunts to Maumee’s effort, which included some great defensive plays by Cleghorn.
“Devon is just a special kid,” Coutcher said.
Faris took the unfortunate loss after allowing just an unearned run on four hits and a walk, while striking five Panthers batters out over eight strong innings.
“Give a lot of credit to Payton,” Coutcher said. “I’m glad he was able to pitch so well in the last game of his senior year. He did a great job.”
The Yellow Jackets dropped to 17-12 with the loss.
While this Panthers team will graduate eight key players in Brown, Cleghorn, Schiavone, Studenka, pitcher Matt Dalton, infielder Hunter Duby, outfielder Cameron Hahn and catcher Blake Hazard, a quartet of other starters should return in 2019.
These four include Adams, Butler, Pauken and sophomore first baseman Zach Marvin – who missed the final game due to an injury he suffered in the district finals.
“(The seniors) all played different positions and we were all able to give the (non-seniors) wisdom from what we learned from our different experiences, so I think we passed the torch very well,” Studenka said.
“We only really had like four guys come back from last year’s team and we’ll only have four guys coming back from this year’s team,” he said. “The seniors’ jobs are to set up a solid foundation, lift the other guys up, empower them, teach them how to do things the right way and then encourage them to go do it.”