DEFIANCE – Archbold right-hander T.J. Rice threw 25 pitches on Sunday.
He was good to go on Monday, but even his coach didn’t expect him to go the distance.
Rice threw a complete-game shutout in a 4-0 Archbold victory over Van Wert in the ACME baseball state semifinals Monday at Defiance High School.
Archbold (23-7) advances to the state ACME championship game at 7 p.m. today against the Bellefontaine/Bryan winner.
“I wasn’t amazing when I got up today, but I was good enough to throw,” Rice said.
This marks the fifth year for the single-elimination format at the ACME state tournament.
Van Wert ends its summer 19-5.
“It was a quality game and he (Rice) kept the ball down. We hit a lot of balls, but it seemed every time we hit it hard, it was right at somebody,” Van Wert coach Todd Dunlap said. “We just couldn’t string enough together. They had the timelier hits than we did.’’
Rice gave up six hits over his seven innings of work. He struck out two and walked one.
Rice had command of the strike zone with his fastball, breaking ball and slider, as he threw a tidy 88 pitches.
Rice threw three innings of relief, 25 pitches, in Sunday’s 5-0 victory over Perrysburg.
“I expected to go as long as I could,” Rice said. “I expected to go all seven. I didn’t throw very long yesterday, so I expected to be 100 percent, at least to start the game.’’
Archbold coach Kirk Weldy said, “I know he (Rice) wanted the ball. Honestly, I was going into the game looking to get three or four solid innings out of him. But he got in a groove and he wanted to stay out there. There was a trust and you go for it when you have a senior out there.’’
Rice had a challenging inning in the fourth when Archbold had a 1-0 lead.
Van Wert’s Ryan Hollingsworth led off the inning with a double.
Rice then got a groundout to third, a strikeout and a popout to short to escape any damage.
“That was a game changer for us,” Weldy said.
Archbold, the two-time defending state ACME champion, took a 1-0 lead in the top of the third.
Jeron Williams doubled to right-center field. He came home on an RBI single to right by Rice.
In the fifth, Archbold’s Travis Ziegler hit a single to left and it turned into a double when the ball took a high hop and bounced over the Van Wert left fielder’s head.
Williams followed with an RBI single to right and Archbold had a 2-0 lead.
Archbold added two runs in the sixth.
Kade Kern walked and came home from first on and RBI double to right-center field by Mitch Grosjean. That gave the Blue Streaks a 3-0 lead.
Cory Erbskorn’s RBI single to left gave Archbold a 4-0 lead in the sixth.
Van Wert right-hander Hayden Maples also went the distance.
He went seven innings and gave up four runs, all earned, on seven hits. He struck two and walked four.
Maples threw 104 pitches.
A key for Archbold was laying off Maples’ knuckleball around the third inning.
“We wanted to go up hitting fastballs and adjust to his offspeed,” Rice said.
Both teams played errorless ball.
For Van Wert, Hollingsworth went 2 for 3.
Williams was 2 for 4 for Archbold.
Dunlap was happy with the team’s season, including the 2-0 quarterfinal win over Versailles, when Lawson Blackmore had 16 strikeouts in 6 1/3 innings before he hit the 125-pitch limit.
“To get to the state semis, it says a lot about the kids and their determination,” Dunlap said. “Today wasn’t our day.’’