ELIDA – Two errors may not seem like a lot but a pair of defensive miscues coupled with an outstanding pitching performance from Grant Fuerst propelled Ottawa-Glandorf to a 2-1 victory over Spencerville in the Division II District semifinals Thursday.
With the win the Titans (18-7) advance to the district final contest against Coldwater Saturday at 1 p.m. Spencerville ends its year with a 13-11 mark.
In his complete game shutout, Fuerst surrendered five hits while striking out six. The junior right handed hurler, who did not allow a walk, was in complete control of breaking ball and fastball that baffled the Bearcat batters all game.
“He is a good pitcher,” Spencerville head coach Shane Falke said. “He did a good job of changing the speeds up. He threw a pretty decent fastball and his off speed stuff was really good. He didn’t miss much and threw a lot of strikes.”
Ottawa-Glandorf head coach Nick Miller said he knew against Spencerville pitcher Jake Meyer that runs were going to be hard to come by but added that Fuerst rose to the challenge.
“He (Meyer) threw the ball very well but you’ve got to give credit to our pitcher. He battled against one of the better pitchers in the area and he matched him inning to inning and threw zeroes all the way across the board.”
Even though Fuerst was dealing, the Titan pitcher got plenty of help from his defense in particular two spectacular defensive gems. In the first of those hang-a-star-on-that-play moment came in the fourth when first baseman Nathan Arrington lunged to to his right to snare a stinging line drive with runners on first and second and two outs to prevent a run from scoring.
The second Titan to flash some leather came in the sixth. After fanning the first batter, Bearcat Brady Nolan hit a sinking line drive to centerfield that appeared to be a certain base hit. However, centerfielder Evan Balash laid out to catch the ball and rob Nolan of the single.
“Defensively we know we are going to have to make plays behind Grant,” Miller said. “We know he is not a strike out pitcher and we showed after the first batter (who reached first on an error) we played errorless baseball. We made some nice plays and we also made the routine plays.”
While Fuerst got the necessary defense to record the victory, Bearcat pitcher Jake Meyer, who also pitched a solid game, was felled by two errors that led to the two Titan runs.
The Titans first run came in the fourth when Fuerst and Logan Balbaugh collected base hits with one out. Arrington followed with a slow roller to right side of the infield that cut down Balbaugh at second but allowed Fuerst to advance to third.
No. 9 hitter Logan Miller than hit a smash to third baseman that was bobbled by third baseman Nolan who’s throw was too late to get the runner at first and it allowed Fuerst to cross the plate.
Ottawa’s second run was an example of the Spencerville’s day. After striking out Fuerst to open the frame, Meyer then fanned Balbaugh. However, catcher Kale Lee could not handle the third strike and Balbaugh hustled to first to beat the throw. Balbaugh worked his way around to third on a couple of more wild pitchers and on a third wild pitch Balbaugh raced home for the Titans’ second run. Meyer would go to fan two more batters, with a walk in between, to close out the inning to record the rare four strikeout inning.
“When you play a team like O-G you can’t afford to make mistakes and we made a couple mistakes in the games and it came back and cost us,” Falke said.
In Meyer’s tough loss, the Spencerville hurler went six innings and gave up four hits, three walks while striking out nine.
“He (Meyer) pitched well enough to win and he has been a work horse for us the entire here,” Falke said. “I had a good group of seniors that were really good leaders and he is the type of kid, amongst a couple of our seniors, like Brady Becker, that you wish you had a whole team of. These are the type of kids who don’t give up and he pitched his butt off. He has a lot of strike outs and put us in a position to win.”
Giving Meyer the most trouble was the bottom of the Titan lineup that accounted for three hits and two runs. The bottom four of Fuerst, Balbaugh, Arrington and Miller reached base six times including two walks and one sacrifice bunt.
“Anytime you can get production out of the bottom of the lineup there it helps,” Miller said. “They got some walks and we were able to execute some bunts to get guys in scoring position and we were lucky when he gave us a few with some wild pitches and that was a big insurance run for us.”