COLUMBUS GROVE — It wasn’t a surprise for Columbus Grove.
The Bulldogs knew if they were going to grab a share of the Putnam County League baseball title, they would have to go through Kalida standout pitcher, Owen Recker.
In Tuesday’s showdown against Columbus Grove, Bowling Green State University-bound Owen Recker took over pitching duties for Josh Recker in the top of the third for Kalida.
Recker was dominating, not allowing a base hit for five-plus innings, as the game went into extra innings.
However, Columbus Grove finally got the hits it needed as the Bulldogs (14-6, 6-1 PCL) pulled out a thrilling 3-2 victory over Kalida (14-3, 6-1), to grab a share of the PCL crown.
In the home half of the ninth inning, Columbus Grove designated hitter Brady Rudasill got on base with an infield hit.
Four batters later, freshman Luke Otto, the No. 9 hitter in the order, got his opportunity.
Otto, who started in right field for the Bulldogs, had a player come off the bench in the seventh to pinch hit for him.
However, in the bottom of the ninth, Otto got redemption at the plate, as he smashed a single to left to drive in the winning run. Grant McCauley, who came in to pinch run for Rudasill, scored the decisive run for the Bulldogs.
“I just wanted to get the bat on the ball,” Otto said with a grin. “We knew Recker was going to pitch. So, we tried to get ready for that. We knew it was going to be a battle; and we came out on top.”
Second-year Columbus Grove coach Eric Naughton was elated with his team’s effort Tuesday night.
“What more could you ask for in a title game?” Naughton said. “That’s everything you could ask for. We knew we were going to face (Owen) Recker at some point. That kid is an absolute stud. He’s one of the best in the area. I threw 330 pitches to these kids last night (at practice). I tried to emulate him. ….You just can’t do it.”
Tuesday night, each team recorded five hits.
However, Columbus Grove saved its two biggest hits for the ninth.
“It took until our last guy, a freshman, to beat him,” Naughton said. “I couldn’t be any prouder of these kids. It’s all about them. They’ve bought into the program.
They’ve done everything we’ve asked them to do. You couldn’t ask for much more in a title game. I’ll give it to Kalida, too. … What a team.”
Owen Recker recorded nine strikeouts in his seven innings of work Tuesday. Recker set down the first nine batters he faced.
Nick Woods got the starting nod for the Bulldogs. Woods pitched eight innings before being lifted for Alex Schneider.
Woods was stellar, giving up two runs on five hits, while striking out nine, walking two and hitting a batter. He threw 101 pitches on the night. Woods also reached a milestone Tuesday, as he became the all-time strike out leader at Columbus Grove.
“A phenomenal performance by him,” Naughton said about Woods. “He broke the school record in strikeouts. He didn’t get the win, but it feels like he did. What an excellent pitching performance on both sides.”
Dylan Mason led Columbus Grove at the plate, going 2 for 4.
Zach Vonder Embse led Kalida, going 2 for 4.
Columbus Grove took the early lead, scoring two runs in the bottom of the first. Brady Hauenstein got on base with a fielder’s choice; and thanks to a throwing error, Mason, who led off with a single to center, was able to come around to score. Schneider, later in the first, smashed a single to left to bring Hauenstein around to score.
Kalida scored one run in the second, on an RBI single by Matt Kehres. The Wildcats added another run in the third, on an RBI single by Owen Recker. Recker’s single drove in Vonder Embse, who got on with a base hit.
“You can’t beat what happened,” Naughton said. “The plays that were made — the double plays, the diving plays — that’s all you can ask for.
“Our defense and pitching have carried us all year. Our offense is starting to come, right now, before the tournament. We couldn’t ask for any better timing than this.”
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