BLUFFTON – Johnny Crawford’s aching foot was the source of much concern for Wapakoneta’s baseball team this week.
As it turned out, Bellevue was the one who should have been worried after Crawford hit a home run, drove in six runs and pitched four innings in the Redskins’ 14-4 win over the Redmen in a Division II baseball district semifinal on Thursday.
With the win, the Redskins (17-5) advanced to Saturday’s district championship game against Lexington (22-4), a 3-2 winner over Shawnee in the other semifinal at Bluffton University. The game is slated to start at 2 p.m.
Crawford re-aggravated a football injury, which put his status for Thursday’s game in doubt. At least in some people’s minds, but not necessarily in his.
“It was good to be back, I had about a week where I didn’t get to play at all. I did the same thing in football and I reinjured it this week. I felt pretty confident out there. I was really confident swinging the bat,” he said.
Crawford had a three-run home run, a two-run double and a run-scoring single that ended the game on the run rule. He struck out seven and walked four in four innings on the mound before Chace Culver finished the game.
Wapakoneta coach Jason Brandt said, “Johnny willed himself to play. We weren’t sure on Tuesday if he was going to be able to play at all. He thought he could give us four or five innings and he pitched four.”
Bellevue (20-6), which lost 4-1 in the district championship game to Wapakoneta last year, let an opportunity to put some pressure on the Redskins early slip away.
The Redmen took a 1-0 lead in the first inning with the help of two walks and three Wapakoneta errors. But they left the bases loaded without adding any more runs when Triston Snezek struck out to end the inning.
“We were very fortunate because that could have been a big inning for them,” Brandt said.
Crawford’s double in the third inning, which scored A.J. Etzkorn and Josh Apple, gave Wapakoneta a 2-1 lead and Andrew Hines followed with a single off the shortstop’s glove to make it 3-1. A bases-loaded walk to Marshall Gerlach made it 4-1.
Bellevue scored three times in the top of the fourth inning to tie the game at 4-4, but never could regain the lead.
Wapakoneta took the lead for good with four runs in the bottom of the fourth inning when Alex Koch scored on an error, Brandon Schreiber delivered a two-run single and Chandler Kaeck scored on a wild pitch.
Crawford’s three-run home run in the fifth inning made it 11-4.
The Redmen used three more pitchers after starter Alex Manner left the game after 2 2/3 innings.
Brandt said he was undecided about how Wapakoneta’s pitching lineup might look for the district championship game since both of the Redskins’ two top pitchers were used in the semifinal.