WAPAKONETA — St. Henry 4, Wapakoneta 2.
This was the score of what essentially was a meaningless game at the end of Wapakoneta’s season and was the lone blemish on its regular season record.
It served as a motivation for the Redskins going into the playoffs and remains as a reminder that they are beatable on any given day as they prepare for the Division II state championship semifinal match up against Circleville (19-10) at Huntington Park in Columbus at 4 p.m. Friday.
“You never want to lose a game but in all honesty it was one of those things that says ‘hey we are beatable on any given night,’” Redskin head coach Jason Brandt said. “It was just one of those games and it is still on the scoreboard to this day and we had it up the other day and the kids see it as a reminder.”
Coming in with a veteran team Wapakoneta knew it had the talent to make a run at state and the number one reason was pitching.
With three top notch arms in its stable, Joel Roediger, Manny Vorhees and Gage Schenk, Wapakoneta (24-1) was a favorite to make state this year but the Redskins who have had great teams in the past, including last year’s that lost in the district finals, did not take anything for granted during the regular season.
“I think last year we felt we were really good,” Brandt said. “I think we had a legitimate shot to get to state. We had a good nucleus of kids who graduated last year and then this year’s seniors – all but one – dressed with us last year except one who moved in.”
Brandt added the chilly weather early in the season prevented the Redskins from getting into a groove but once they played on a consistent basis Wapakoneta started racking up the wins.
With a “pedal to the metal” approach, the Redskins dominated opponents and that was with a huge target on their back, having been ranked No. 1 for most of the year.
During the regular season, the Redskins recorded nine shutouts and gave up more than five runs once.
“Our pitching staff is deep,” Brandt said. “We thought we had a good staff coming into the season with three guys (Vorhees, Schenk and Roediger) that could hit 90 (mph). You hope to have one of those guys in your career and to have three in the same year it is fantastic.”
Not to be overshadowed was the offense that scored 10 or more runs in 11 of their games. Wapakoneta hit over .380 for the season as a team.
“There is truly no easy out on any given day,” Brandt said. “Don’t get me wrong, guys do make outs but from top to bottom if one guy makes an out one or two guys will pick him up.”
Brandt said the hitting only assisted the pitching. By breaking out to early leads allowed the starters to pitch with confidence.
Another reason is Wapakoneta’s defense behind the pitching that Brandt said has been tremendous.
But mainly it is about the team’s attitude.
“Once we just started going our kids got along really well with each other,” Brandt said. “The older players did a fantastic job of working with the younger kids. They gelled pretty well from the get-go and we did a couple of team bonding things.”
Brandt added that he said despite being ranked No. 1 the team never felt any pressure to live up to that lofty billing.
“We were also ranked No. 1 at the end of last year for a couple of weeks and the guys saw that and realized it doesn’t mean a whole lot at the end of the season,” Brandt said. “It is a great compliment to what they have done through the course of the regular season.”
Brandt said one of the more memorable events to come from the regular season was going 9-0 and winning the Western Buckeye League for the second straight year to make school history.
“Personally going 9-0 in the WBL was special because No. 1 the league is loaded,” Brandt said. “Winning back-to-back has never been done and that is a great thing for this program.”
Once the postseason began, Wapakoneta was hit with the news that Vorhees and Joel Roediger were beset with arm injuries.
Vorhees tried to go in the first playoff game against Bryan but lasted just two innings and gave up five runs. Schenk came in and provided the necessary pitching to shut down the Golden Bears and it was the offense that carried the Redskins to a 12-5 victory.
Schenk threw a three-hit shutout against Firelands to carry the Redskins to a 12-0 victory and then punched their ticket to state when they outlasted Ontario 11-5 in eight innings in the regional final.
Brandt said this is a resilient group that never gives up.
“The kids have never given up and their attitudes have been great,” Brandt said. “The leadership they posses and they go out there with the belief and they have that belief that they can win. They are not overly confident but they know if they do what they are supposed to do good things are going to happen.”
In that game, Brady Erb got the start and both Goodes and Vorhees pitched in relief to garner the win.
All those pitchers will be needed when Wapakoneta heads to state. Schenk will be the starter in game one and if the Redskins win, Brandt will decide who will go in the state finals.
“We were able to go with Brady Erb being our fourth guy and he is up to 23 to 24 innings,” Brandt said. “He started the district finals and the regional finals. Here is a kid who was going to be our fourth and fifth starter. He has really had to jump into the spotlight and has thrown extremely well and then Don Goodes and Mitch Apple are good hard throwing guys.”
Brandt added that Roediger threw a little and might be available along with Vorhees, Erb and Goodes.
“Manny should be good for a couple of innings and he threw lights out for us on Sunday and his velocity was back but that injury is a day to day thing,” Brandt said. “We got a little bit of good news last night. Joel Roediger threw in the bullpen and he is going to throw tomorrow and if all turns out well he will be available for who knows how long but if we get one or two from him that gives us a little extra advantage.”
Brandt, who took the Redskins to state in 2012, said the team is approaching state as though it were business as usual.
“The first time we made it was ‘holy cow we made it,’” Brandt said. “It was a totally different feeling because we weren’t supposed to make it. We had no seniors on the team and those kids played with the same passion our kids play with now.”
Off the field, one of the changes is that the team will stay in Columbus throughout the weekend whether it wins or loses. On the field, Brandt said because of how loud it can get at state he will incorporate some hand gestures to communicate with his team when they are on defense.
Home team listed first. All games at Huntington Park, Columbus.
Rankings are from final coaches association state poll.
Garfield Heights Trinity (22-3) vs. No. 15 Fort Loramie (25-6), 10 a.m. Thursday
No. 9 Hicksville (20-5) vs. No. 1 Mowrystown Whiteoak (28-2), 1 p.m. Thursday
Championship: 10 a.m. Saturday
No. 6 Coldwater (25-6) vs. No. 12 Minford (24-2), 4 p.m. Thursday
Cincinnati Madeira (21-6) vs. Canfield South Range (16-15), 7 p.m. Thursday
Championship: 1 p.m. Saturday
Medina Highland (19-9) vs. No. 2 Powell Olentangy Liberty (28-4), 10 a.m. Friday
No. 8 Whitehouse Anthony Wayne (25-4) vs. No. 7 Mason (26-5), 1 p.m. Friday
Championship: 4 p.m. Saturday
No. 1 Wapakoneta (23-1) vs. Circleville (19-10), 4 p.m. Friday
No. 17 Tallmadge (19-11) vs. Dayton Chaminade Julienne (22-5), 7 p.m. Friday
Championship: 7 p.m. Saturday