BY ANDY ROWER | MIRROR SPORTS — Senior pitcher Justin Studenka struck four batters out and walked one while leading Maumee to a four-hit shutout win over host Lima Bath in a sectional semifinal game on May 9.
“I knew from the first inning that we were going to have to rely heavily on me hitting my spots and my defense making plays,” Studenka said.
Maumee baseball coach Cam Coutcher said he was “not at all surprised” with Studenka’s performance.
“He’s done that for us all season and did it for us through all of last season,” he said. “The experience he got in tournament play last year was invaluable. Any time he takes the mound, I know all we need is a run or two. He’s not overpowering. He’s just an incredible pitcher.”
Fellow Panthers senior Caleb Brown led off with a double before scoring the night’s only run on a one-out single by sophomore first baseman Zach Marvin.
The remainder of the contest came down to an old-fashioned pitchers’ duel between Studenka and Wildcats senior lefthander Hunter Iiames and some solid defensive play from both teams.
Bath senior second baseman Luke Best stole second after reaching base on a fielder’s choice in the bottom of the first, but Maumee escaped any real damage thanks in part to a slick defensive play by junior shortstop Austin Pauken.
“I was very happy with our defense today,” Coutcher said.
Pauken and Wildcats senior first baseman Will Clark were next robbed by slick defensive plays by Bath freshman shortstop Lex Boedicker and Panthers senior second baseman Devin Schiavone in the second inning, but Maumee followed with its best scoring opportunity in the third.
Brown got beaned in a stanza that also saw a one-out walk by junior third baseman Blake Adams, but Iiames ended the threat with a pair of strikeouts.
Bath senior centerfielder Chad Frey hit a one-out double down the leftfield line in the bottom of the inning but was left stranded when Studenka served up a pop-out and a strikeout for the frame’s second and third outs.
The Wildcats’ best scoring opportunity followed in the fourth, when Clark was beaned and senior catcher Jeremiah Bolon followed with a two-out single, but both were left marooned on a third-out groundout to Studenka.
Studenka then got plunked and advanced all the way to third on a Schiavone sacrifice bunt and a fifth-inning wild pitch, but Iiames again pitched his way out of trouble by recording a strikeout and a groundout.
The final Panthers base runner came when senior designated hitter Hunter Duby reached on the game’s only error in the sixth – giving Bath two more innings to mount a comeback.
Senior third baseman Isaiah Bolon hit a two-out single and stole second in the bottom of the sixth, but that was as close as the Wildcats got.
Pauken and Schiavone each turned in another head-turning defensive play to record the first two outs of the seventh, before Studenka closed things out by inducing Bath’s eighth and final groundout of the evening.
“It was comforting to see that we were making all of our plays,” Studenka said, “that last inning especially because those were some wicked fly balls.”
Studenka ended up throwing 68 of his 93 pitches for strikes.
“Last year, I was extremely nervous going into the sectional semifinal because I had never pitched in one before,” Studenka said. “After last year, this year is a breeze.”
For his part, the left-handed Iiames struck out nine Maumee batters while never allowing another hit after the first inning.
“I wish we could have gotten a couple more hits, but Iiames did a great job, so give him a lot of credit,” Coutcher said.
The win over the No. 8 Wildcats (7-15) allowed the No. 9 Panthers (9-11) to advance on to play No. 2 Defiance for a sectional championship.
“My hope is that we can keep winning one inning and one game at a time,” Studenka said. “I know that if we do that, we can do just as well, if not better, than last year.”
MHS 8, Defiance 2
Two days later, Maumee got another strong pitching performance – this time from senior Devin Schiavone – as the Panthers upset state-ranked (No. 12) Defiance with an 8-2 sectional championship victory.
Schiavone got an immediate five-run cushion when Maumee plated three runs in the top of the first inning.
After adding three more in the third, another in the fourth and an eighth in the sixth, the Panthers led the tournament’s No. 2 seed 8-0 before the Bulldogs managed to break the scoreless streak. They managed a run in the sixth and another in the seventh, but that’s as close as things got.
Schiavone ended up allowing just two runs on five hits and three walks and struck out five Defiance batters in his complete-game performance.
Senior centerfielder Devon Cleghorn led all batters in the contest with a triple, a HBP, three runs, three RBI and three stolen bases and Butler and Marvin (walk, two runs, RBI, stolen base) added two hits each.
Adams (sacrifice, run), Pauken (stolen base) and Schiavone (run) also notched hits for Maumee, Brown was beaned twice and recorded a sacrifice, Duby was also plunked and Studenka contributed a sacrifice to the Panthers’ victory.
Maumee improved to 10-11 with the win.
Mitchell Spencer took the loss for Defiance after surrendering four earned runs on four hits over 2.1 innings and Logan Andonian gave up another in 4.2 solid relief frames.
Tyrel Goings (double), Jackson Meter, Javen Newton (triple, run), Blayne Robinson (walk) and Brandon Shafer (RBI) combined to record the five Bulldogs hits, despite the loss.
The Panthers will next square off against a familiar foe in the Thursday, May 17 district semifinals at Patrick Henry High School – another state-ranked team, No. 18 Bowling Green.
The 14-8 Bobcats have previously defeated Maumee twice in regular season play, once back on April 11 (4-2) and again on April 27 (11-1).