ELIDA — Pitching, hitting, defense. It didn’t matter in which order they were ranked because Coldwater got all three of them in a 7-2 win over Columbus Academy in the Division III baseball regional championship game at Ed Sandy Field on Friday.
That win sent the Cavaliers (26-6) to the state baseball tournament for the first time since they won the 2014 Division III state championship and they are making the 20th trip to state in baseball in school history. Six of those previous trips ended with a state title.
They will play Minford (24-2), making its first appearance in a state baseball tournament, at 4 p.m. at Huntington Bank Park in Columbus.
Cole Frilling (6 strikeouts, 3 walks) pitched a complete game three-hitter. Coldwater had 11 hits, led by Nathan Grunden, who went 3 for 3 and Sam Broering, who was 3 for 4. And it played errorless defense.
Coldwater jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the first inning when Broering singled, stole second base and scored on a single by Grunden. It added two more runs in the third inning when Austin Riethman singled, Broering beat out a bunt and Jake Wenning blasted a double to left field.
“Baseball is a game of momentum. You just have to get ahead quickly. That’s huge,” Broering said. “This group has never been to regionals. We didn’t play with nerves. We came out firing and hitting.”
The Cavaliers also came out running. They had five stolen bases in the first three innings and seven in the game, counting uncontested steals.
A two-run double by Broering in the top of the sixth inning after a pinch-hit single by Noah Miller and a walk to Riethman made it 5-0. Columbus Academy (18-14) got two runs in the bottom of the sixth inning but Coldwater responded with two more runs in the top of the seventh when Joey Welsch’s double drove in Grunden and Jack Muhlenkamp.
Frilling said his fastball was the pitch he relied on most. “If I needed a strike I’d spot it up and Jake (catcher Jacob Hartings) would frame it up for me, maybe outside or maybe low. The fastball was working today,” he said.
Coldwater coach Brian Harlamert said his junior pitcher had more working for him than just his fastball. “Our offense helped relax him and he was dominant in the third, fourth and fifth innings. His curve ball got him ahead of hitters and the fastball was the ‘out’ pitch.”
So, with all those past trips to Columbus and all those trophies is the state tournament a goal every year in Coldwater?
“That’s the goal all year but you can’t do that Week One. You just have to take it one game at a time,” Broering said.
Grunden said, “We just practice our hardest and try to be the best team we can be. We’re a tight group. We go as far as we can and this year it led us to the state tournament. When we started something like 10-0 I knew this was a special group of guys.”
Harlamert said, “Our goal is to compete and win and play hard. If we get to this game we want to win it. We’re going to Columbus to win, not just to play. That’s the history of Coldwater baseball. We have six, we’re going for seven.”