DEFIANCE – Whether it was for the long haul, the short haul or something in between, the pitchers took center stage in the two Division IV baseball district semifinals at Defiance High School on Wednesday.
Kalida beat Arlington 3-0 in the first game, then Miller City walked away with a 10-0 run rule win over Delphos St. John’s in 4 ½ innings in the second of two games originally scheduled to be played in Ottawa before that field became unplayable because of too much rain.
In the first game, Kalida’s Josh Recker allowed no runs and five hits in 6 2/3 innings. Following that, Miller City’s Chase Kuhlman gave up only a fifth-inning single in his five innings on the mound.
And Kalida’s No. 1 starter, Owen Recker, came on to get the final out on two pitches, both of them over 90 miles an hour on the radar gun, in the fifth inning of the first game after Arlington had loaded the bases on two infield singles and a walk.
That sets up a rematch in the district championship game on Friday of an instant classic regular-season game between Kalida and Miller City, which Kalida won 4-3 in eight innings.
Josh Recker raised his season record to 6-1 and Kalida coach Joe Recker said his work on the mound on Wednesday shouldn’t have surprised anyone.
“Everybody always wants to talk about Owen’s pitching but we’ve got a number of outstanding pitchers. I said all year Josh and Tyler Klausing would be a No. 1 on almost anybody else’s staff. Those guys are outstanding. Their ERAs are miniscule. They don’t walk anybody,” he said.
Kalida’s hitters took a while to solve Arlington pitcher Zavier Thornton, who held the Wildcats to one hit in the first three innings.
But after Trevor Lambert led off the bottom of the fourth inning with a double, the next three batters – Owen Recker, Ethan Schmenk and Klausing – got hits and Josh Recker hit a sacrifice fly to produce three runs.
“We got settled in after seeing the pitches the first time and and just tried to make solid contact and that’s what we did,” Lambert said. “Hitting is contagious for us. Once we can get a couple hits and start breaking the ice it seems like all the hits start coming.”
Josh Recker said, “I’m glad we got some runs on the board. That made it a little easier for me out on the mound. I felt a little more comfortable.”
He said he went with “mainly my fast ball.” “I was getting ahead of a lot of hitters. And then I threw my curve ball and got them off a little. That was my game plan.”
Kalida’s game plan didn’t specifically include putting Owen Recker on the mound briefly, but it was always a possibility.
When Arlington loaded the bases, Owen Recker moved from third base to the mound from third base. After he extinguished the Red Devils’ rally he went back to third base.
“We wanted to limit his pitching today because we wanted to have him fresh for Friday, but we had to win today.” Joe Recker said. “I envisioned some situations like that. In fact, I talked to an umpire today to verify everything. I got the rule book and it says we can do that seven times a game if we want to.”
Miller City scored two runs in the top of the first inning and added eight more in the fourth inning on only two hits. Cole Niese had a double, a triple and scored two runs for the Wildcats.
Kuhlman, who held St. John’s hitless until two outs in the fifth inning, said, “I was just going in there ready to compete. My guys had my back and my fastball and curve ball were working today, so I’m pretty happy with the way it went.”
Miller City coach Dusty Pester said getting a couple runs early was big for the Wildcats.
“We haven’t been hitting real well lately. To get some good swings and get two runs on the board in the first inning was huge for our confidence. And I can’t say enough about Chase. He competed and got the job done.”
Looking at the rematch with Kalida, he said, “My guys don’t back down from anybody. We’re going to go out and take our hacks. We’ll get on the bus and win, lose or draw, if we gave our best effort we’ll be just fine with it.”
Miller City isn’t the only team with some historical incentive. Kalida got to the district championship game last year before being eliminated by Lima Central Catholic.
Lambert said, “That’s obviously our goal to get back there and have a different result this time. We’re going to come out and play as hard as we can and let the dice roll.”