AKRON — The best baseball season in Van Wert history ended in the Division II state semifinals with a 7-1 loss to Dayton Chaminade-Julienne on Saturday when the Cougars had to contend with maybe the best pitching performance they’d seen all year.
Chaminade-Julienne’s Nick Wissman allowed only two hits, struck out nine, didn’t walk a batter and retired the last 20 batters he faced after giving up a first-inning run.
Van Wert, making its first trip to the state baseball tournament, finished the season 27-3. Chaminade-Julienne (26-2) will play Gilmour Academy today for the Division II state championship.
“Give them (Chaminade-Julienne) a lot of credit. They’re defending state champion for a reason. They took our best shot and went with it,” Van Wert coach Charlie Witten said “But I’ll take my kids. I love them. Our guys battled and battled all year.
“They’re a tremendous group. They accomplished what no other baseball team (at Van Wert) has done. They’re just a great group of kids.
“We gave up too many free bases – too many walks, too many errors, just those things you can’t do in a baseball game against a team as good as Chaminade-Julienne,” he said.
Van Wert took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning after it loaded the bases with one out.
Jake Lautzenheiser beat out an infield single, Hayden Maples reached base on an infield error and Nathan Temple singled to right field to put three runners on base before Lawson Blackmore drove in the run with a sacrifice fly.
Chaminade answered with a run in the bottom of the first inning without a hit. Eight of Blackmore’s first nine pitches were balls, which produced walks to A.J. Solomon and Andrew Simones, the first two batters in the Eagles’ lineup.
A sacrifice bunt moved them to second and third base and Sebastian Gongora drove in the run with a a sacrifice fly.
Chaminade-Julienne, which had gone hitless against Blackmore in the first three innings, scored twice on only one hit in the bottom of the fourth inning.
The Eagles’ game changing rally started when a third strike to their first batter, Wissman, was in the dirt and got past the catcher.
The next batter, Sebastian Gongora, singled to put runners on first and second. When Jack Huffman attempted to bunt the runners up a base, Blackmore threw out Wissman at third base. But two Van Wert errors on the same play allowed two runners to score and put Chaminade-Julienne in control with a 3-1 lead.
Three more Chaminade-Julienne runs in the fifth inning and a run in the sixth put the game out of reach the way Wissman was throwing the ball.
“You could see he probably picked up a good three or four miles an hour from the second inning on,” Chaminade-Julienne coach Mike Barhorst said about his senior pitcher.
“He had a little slow start in the first inning. He definitely didn’t have the velocity. He got a little mad when they scored that run and got three guys on. That doesn’t happen very often with Nick. He was dominant from there on out,” he said.
Reach Jim Naveau at 567-242-0414.