AKRON — They hit hard, they run hard. And they keep coming back. Maybe most of all they keep coming back.
Coldwater (26-6) will play for its seventh state championship in baseball at 7 o’clock Sunday night after coming from behind twice to beat Cincinnati Roger Bacon 12-7 in a Division III state semifinal on Saturday. The Cavaliers will play West Lafayette Ridgewood (24-9), a 6-5 winner against Canton Central Catholic (24-7).
The Cavaliers also have come back to the Division III state championship game for a second year in a row.
And in Saturday’s win their starting pitcher Cole Frilling came back to finish the game, sort of serving as his own relief pitcher, after being removed during a five-run Roger Bacon rally in the top of the third inning before returning to the mound for the final four innings.
But the return to the state championship game is the most important comeback.
“Ever since last season when we got beat by South Range it fueled a fire. We want to win this thing. You play the whole year for this game here,” Frilling said. “There’s only eight teams in it (the state tournament) now and four who will win.”
After Roger Bacon went up 1-0 in the top of the first inning, Coldwater scored five times in the bottom of the second inning for a 5-1 lead.
But Roger Bacon responded with five runs of its own for a 6-5 lead in the middle of the third inning, which finally ended with Jacob Wenning, expected to be the starting pitcher for Sunday’s championship game, getting the final two outs.
In the bottom of the third, Coldwater sent 11 hitters to the plate, turned up the aggressiveness on the basepaths, benefitted from a costly Roger Bacon error and scored seven runs.
Roger Bacon never recovered. But Frilling recovered nicely, allowing only one run and three hits in the last four innings after giving up six runs in his first 2 1/3 innings.
“I’ve never done that before, but we got the job done. That’s all I care about right now,” Frilling said about his split work shift. “I didn’t pound the zone enough today. I was walking people, I think I hit a couple people.”
Coldwater coach Brian Harlamert pointed to the ability to come back of his team as a whole as a characteristic of Cavaliers teams.
“You saw how resilient and tough we are. They battled back,” Harlamert said. “We put pressure on our opponents.”
Coldwater scored its 12 runs on only six hits and Myles Blasingame, who went 2 for 2, was the only Cavalier with more than one hit. But four Coldwater players – Austin Riethman, Will Broering, Ross Weigel and Frilling – scored two runs when the Cavaliers took advantage of five Roger Bacon errors and five walks by three Spartans pitchers.
George Janzen had two hits and three RBI for Roger Bacon (18-11).
Coldwater is making its 21st appearance in a state baseball tournament and its seventh in the last 20 seasons.
Only three of his year’s starters – Riethman, Wenning and Frilling – started in last year’s state championship game. South Range scored the winning run in the top of the sixth inning in that game and made two big defensive plays late in the game to stop potential Coldwater rallies.
Reach Jim Naveau at 567-242-0414.