COLUMBUS — Brandon Youngs was the closer twice for Canfield South Range twice in Coldwater’s 3-2 loss to the Raiders in the Division III baseball state championship game at Huntington Park on Saturday.
The senior right-hander pitched two scoreless innings in the sixth and seventh innings in relief to close out a win that gave South Range (18-15) its first state championship in any sport.
But it was a defensive play he made an inning before he threw a pitch that closed out a promising Coldwater rally which might have been the biggest play in the game.
After Coldwater (27-7) scored two runs in the bottom of the fourth inning to tie the game at 2-2, it put runners on first and second base with one out in the fifth inning and the next batter, Jacob Wenning, crushed a line drive that appeared headed for left field.
But Youngs, playing shortstop, dived after the ball, caught it and doubled up the lead runner, Brad Giere, for an inning-ending double play.
“It’s a game of inches. That play right there is a single, possibly a double and we get one run, maybe two,” Coldwater coach Brian Harlamert said.
Youngs said, “I can’t describe it. I saw the ball come off the bat and instantly dove and once I made the play I was ecstatic. I got a good jump on the ball. It made a big difference.”
Coldwater was playing catch-up most of the game after South Range jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the first inning on singles by Jared Bajerski, Ben Rivera and Jake Gehring. It got a second run in the third inning on singles by Young and Rivera and a sacrifice fly by Gehring.
Coldwater, which had only four hits in the game off starter Sam Brooks (5 innings, 3 hits) and Youngs, didn’t get its first hit until Wenning led off the fourth inning with a single. The next batter, Nathan Grunden, also singled and a wild pitch moved the runners to second and third.
Wenning scored on a balk and Grunden scored on a sacrifice bunt by Seth Miller to make it 2-2.
After Youngs’ big play in the bottom of the fifth, South Range got the lead back in the top of the sixth with a single, a double and a sacrifice fly by Bajerski.
The Cavaliers put two runners on base in the bottom of the sixth with one out, but South Range got another inning-ending double play to end that threat.
“Both teams were aggressive all around. Unfortunately, their balls fell in and our balls didn’t quite fall in,” Harlamert said.
“We’ll tip our hat to our seniors. They got here. They weren’t supposed to be here. They were a bunch of guys who were one-year varsity starters for us. They believed in the program, they believed in what we teach them all the way down and all the way up.
“The bottom line is we didn’t get No. 7 but got here for No. 20 and battled and had a chance to win the ball game,” he said, referring to Coldwater’s twentieth trip to a state baseball tournament and its attempt to win its seventh state title.
Reach Jim Naveau at 567-242-0414 or on Twitter at @Lima_Naveau.