Maumee’s State Baseball Run Ends With 4-1 Loss To Tallmadge In Semifinals

Maumee junior Caleb Brown takes a swing at the ball during a June 1 state semifinal baseball game at Huntington Park. Brown went 2-for-3 with a double on the day, despite a 4-1 loss to Tallmadge. MIRROR PHOTO BY JOE NEGRICH

BY ANDY ROWER | MIRROR SPORTS — Maumee’s march through the Ohio Division II baseball tournament came to a conclusion on June 1, when a three-run fourth inning helped Tallmadge to an eventual 4-1 win over the Panthers in the state semifinals at Huntington Park. After a quick three-up, three-down inning by starting pitcher Justin Studenka, the Maumee offense took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first frame when sophomore designated hitter Blake Adams drew a walk, advanced to second when a pitch hit senior third baseman Matt Burkett and then scored on a single from senior catcher Tyler Archambeau. “I was very happy that I could put the team on top so early in the game,” Archambeau said. “It calmed everyone down a little for the first three innings. I was just happy that I could help the team.” Junior centerfielder Jared Burick recorded a double to give the Blue Devils their first hit in the second stanza, but Studenka and the Panthers avoided any real damage. Maumee also threatened when freshman second baseman Zach Marvin tripled off the 318-foot right-field wall and Adams drew a leadoff walk, but Marvin was stranded in the bottom of the second and Tallmadge sophomore catcher Rich Eyre threw Adams out as he attempted to steal in the third. “Tallmadge just outplayed us that day,” said Maumee senior centerfielder John Henry. “They executed hits at the right time and played very well defensively. We weren’t smart on the base paths and didn’t execute as a team.” For his part, Maumee baseball coach Cam Coutcher called Marvin “a great ballplayer” and “a great kid.” “He’s got a lot of ability and we hope to help him continue to grow as a ballplayer and a leader in our program,” he said. The Panthers held on to their 1-0 lead until Tallmadge began its fourth-inning run with two outs already recorded. Junior first baseman Scott Seeker started things off by reaching on a Maumee fielding error on a well-hit ball to left field. “Justin made a good pitch and we just didn’t come up with the catch in the outfield,” Coutcher said. Senior designated hitter Josh Taylor next tied things up with a triple before Burick and junior second baseman Jake Rensel gave Tallmadge a 3-1 lead with back-to-back doubles. “Tallmadge did a good job,” Coutcher said. “He (Studenka) left a couple of pitches up and when he did that they took advantage.” The Panthers answered with a leadoff single by junior rightfielder Caleb Brown in the bottom of the fourth, but Blue Devils junior pitcher Zach Boyd promptly caught him leading off first. The pickoff ended up being costly for Maumee when Henry doubled two batters later. “That double was something special and it felt so good coming off the bat,” Henry said. “That was probably the second-to-last at-bat of my career and it definitely won’t be forgotten. It made it 10 times better that it was in a triple-A ballpark.” The fifth inning saw Adams reach on a two-out error, but the Blue Devils again avoided trouble when sophomore leftfielder Sam Seeker robbed Burkett of a base hit with a diving catch that ended the frame. “The teams were very even,” Archambeau said. “They are a good team and so are we. They just ended up making more plays than us. We all competed to the best of our ability, but as my great-grandpa (Robert S. Hoag) used to say, ‘You win some, you lose some and some get rained out.’” Both teams marooned runners in scoring position in the sixth stanza, as Burick hit a two-out single and stole second and Brown hit a one-out double. While Tallmadge’s inning came to a close with a simple groundout, though, the Blue Devils’ junior rightfielder Seth Gergely threw Brown out as he tried to stretch his double into a triple. “Caleb is one of the more coachable kids that we’ve had,” Coutcher said. “I think he hit over .500 during the tournament run, which is just incredible. He’s just a great kid.” Tallmadge’s final run came in the seventh, when Sam Seeker gave his team an insurance run by leading off with an inside-the-park home run to center field. “It was a matter of who played the cleanest game,” Brown said. “They made plays more often than we did and also executed on offense by getting key hits, while we weren’t able to.” From there, Boyd closed out his complete-game performance by forcing a groundout and a flyout before slamming the door with his fifth and final strikeout of the evening. “They made more plays than we did when it came down to it and they hit the ball a little bit better than we did,” Coutcher said. Boyd earned the win after allowing just one run on five hits and four walks. Burick led all batters by going 3-for-3 and collecting a double, a run, an RBI and a stolen base from the Blue Devils’ No. 6 spot, and junior shortstop Phillip Glasser recorded a bunt single in the seventh. Tallmadge improved to 24-7 with the win and went on to capture its second state title since 2002 with a 4-0 victory over Chaminade-Julienne on June 3. Studenka was saddled with the loss, despite a solid performance in which he allowed three earned runs on eight hits and two walks. He also struck four Tallmadge batters out in the process. “It was an honor to be given the start in Huntington Park: No. 1 because it was in a triple-A stadium and No. 2 because it was a state semifinal,” Studenka said. “Not many people can say they’ve done that. “Since we were so evenly matched, I think it was about who made the least mistakes. We had a few base running blunders and I missed a couple pitches – and Tallmadge capitalized on them.” Coutcher called Studenka “fearless.” “He never lets the situation get bigger than it needs to be,” he said. “He just plays one pitch at a time. He’s a very calm and collected kind of a kid and I’m really proud of the way he competed in that game.” Brown paced the Panthers’ offense by going 2-for-3 with a double, junior leftfielder Devon Cleghorn reached base by drawing a sixth-inning walk and seniors Jordan Key and Matt LeCron contributed at shortstop and first base, respectively. “It was very exciting to be 2-for-3 in a game that was very important to us,” Brown said. Maumee, which was making its first state semifinal appearance since 2001, when the Panthers finished as runners-up, closed its season out at 22-10. “After the game, the first thing I really said to them was to look up in the stands and look at the community support,” Coutcher said. “Look at all these people that came out here, love you guys and wanted to be here for you guys. “I just talked about how proud I was of them. They should be proud of themselves and hold their heads high because this is something that no one is going to be able to forget. They’re always going to remember the 2017 baseball team for going to the final four.” Henry said he couldn’t have asked for a better senior year. “We were picked to finish sixth in the league and we thought that was disrespectful. We knew we weren’t the most talented team, but we sure knew how to play as a team and worked hard every day. We wanted to turn things around from last year and prove people wrong. “I think we did that by making a historic playoff run. We beat the two-time defending state champs in Defiance and beat the No. 1-ranked team in the state to win regionals. “It sure would’ve been a lot better to win two more games, but it still was memorable. Being able to say you were a part of the last four teams in the state of Ohio is pretty cool. It was a fun ride and I couldn’t picture my senior year ending any different from the way it did.” Archambeau agreed. “This year has been a blast,” he said. “It has been one of the best baseball experiences of my life so far. Our team got along so well and everyone contributed and gave 100 percent. “No one wanted to be the center of attention, but everyone was ready to be that guy when the situation arose. I think that is a huge part of why we were good.”

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