LIMA — Winning a championship doesn’t always come easy.
After Van Wert lost its opening game of the District 5 ACME baseball tournament to Shawnee on Friday night (Saturday morning, due to postponement), it knew it wasn’t going to be easy.
However, Van Wert regrouped and reeled off four consecutive wins, including two wins Tuesday against Shawnee at Lima Central Catholic’s Players Field to win the ACME district title and stamp its ticket for the ACME state tournament next weekend (July 21-23) at Defiance High School.
Van Wert slipped past Shawnee in Tuesday’s first game, 2-1. Then, Van Wert came back in the title game and defeated Shawnee 4-1.
Van Wert will play Versailles in its first game of the single-elimination ACME state tournament at 2:30 p.m. Saturday.
Van Wert has now made it to the state tournament three times in the past four years. Van Wert last played in the state tournament in 2016. In 2015, Van Wert won the state title, defeating Coldwater in a thrilling 12-inning game, 4-3.
Van Wert’s only other state ACME state title came in 1968.
On Tuesday, Van Wert got solid pitching in both games.
In the first game, Lawson Blackmore went the distance on the mound for Van Wert, giving up the one run on five hits, while striking out eight batters and walking just one. Blackmore threw 101 pitches in his winning effort.
In the championship game, sophomore Owen Treece kept Shawnee off-balance, scattering three hits. Treece struck out five and walked two. Treece got a little more help, offensively, as his teammates pounded out nine hits.
“It’s a true test of character,” Van Wert coach Todd Dunlap said. “We thought we had the best team here. We knew the outcome Friday night
wasn’t what we wanted. But, we’re pretty deep in pitching and we weren’t nervous. We were still pretty confident.”
After the tough loss to Shawnee on Friday, Dunlap told his team to forget about it and move on.
“One game at a time; that’s what we told them all weekend. (Focus on) one game at a time and it will take care of itself,” he said.
In Tuesday’s championship game, Jake Lautzenheiser and Hayden Maples led Van Wert at the plate, both garnering three hits.
Van Wert took the lead, scoring a run in the bottom of the third on an infield hit by Maples that brought in Jaxson Amweg.
However, Shawnee knotted the game at one apiece, scoring a run in the top of the fourth on a grounder by Jake Cowan that scored Kale Ebling.
Van Wert closed the door after that.
Van Wert put two runs across in the bottom of the fourth, on RBI singles by Lautzenheiser and Maples.
Van Wert added another run in the sixth. Parker Conrad would eventually come around to score, after smacking a double to deep left field.
Dunlap praised Treece’s composure on the mound.
“He’s a bulldog,” said Dunlap. “He can throw seven innings pretty easily, and we have a lot of confidence in him. For being a sophomore, he’s pretty dang good.”
Treece felt like he was in command of his pitches.
“As the game went on, the adrenaline is pumping,” Treece said. “You just have to dig deep and throw; and that’s what I did.
“This is what I want (to pitch in a big game). I feel comfortable under pressure. I got my team behind me, and we’re all good.”
In Tuesday’s championship game, A.J. Brown pitched all seven innings for Shawnee. Brown walked four and struck out one.
In the opener, sophomore Jarin Bertke went the distance on the hill for Shawnee. He struck out two and walked three, while tossing 84 pitches.
Bertke also got it done at the plate in the first game, going 3 for 4 with an RBI.
“We battled; but in that second game, we only had three hits and scored one run,” Shawnee coach Jim Brown said. “Most times, you have to do better than that to win a game. So, it was disappointing. But, we had a very good season and I had a great time with these kids. Hopefully, we will be doing it again next year, and maybe we can make it to state.”
In other state tourney games Saturday: Perrysburg plays Archbold at noon, Coldwater meets Bryan at 5 p.m. and Bellefontaine takes on host Defiance at 7:30 p.m.
Reach The Lima News sports department at 567-242-0451.