AKRON – For an entire year the goal was clear for Coldwater’s baseball team. No reminder was needed.
When that goal was achieved Sunday night with a 1-0 win over West Lafayette Ridgewood in the Division III state championship game, the search for that prize ended quickly in a game that took only 1 hour, 12 minutes to play and whose final play’s speed and impact were stunning.
After losing a one-run game to Canfield South Range in last year’s Division III state championship game, the Cavaliers got the gold trophy this time.
“It’s awesome that we came out on top and won our last game. Our motto all year has been ‘Finish strong,’ and I think this whole group of guys really came together with one main goal — to come out of here in Akron with the win. And we did just that,” winning pitcher Jacob Wenning said.
Wenning allowed four hits, struck out three and walked one batter in a complete game win. After getting two hits in the first inning and another in the second inning, Ridgewood had only one hit in the last five innings.
“Pitching early, I was always trying to figure out my stuff and locate my fastball and get a little more bite on my curve ball. After the first three innings I really dialed in and all my pitches were feeling really good,” Wenning said.
Coldwater didn’t get a hit off Ridgewood pitcher Koleton Smith until the fourth inning and had only three in the game. But it put two of them together at just the right time in the fourth inning to score the game’s only run.
Wenning started the rally with a one-out single. He advanced to second base on a ground out by Noah Miller and scored when Jake Hemmelgarn lined a single to center field.
“I was just looking for a good first pitch, stay back on it, hit it hard in play and see what happens,” Hemmelgarn said. “And Jake did a good job hustling home and getting that run.”
Ridgewood (24-10), which was playing in its first state baseball tournament, got a leadoff single from Chase Minet in the top of the seventh inning and got him to second base with a sacrifice bunt.
The next batter, Connor Kunze, lined a shot toward the mound, which Wenning caught and then turned into a game-ending double play by throwing to second base, where Minet was caught in no man’s land when he headed toward third base after Kunze hit the ball.
“Jacob was calm again. A shortstop by trade, he fields the bunt and throws him out. Then he gets a ball hit right back at him. Boom. He catches the ball,” Coldwater coach Brian Harlamert said.
“The bottom line is we got 21 outs. That 21st out was a big one. It’s hard to get the last three outs. When you get two at a time, it’s even better.”
Coldwater (27-6) won the seventh state baseball championship in school history and the second with Harlamert as its coach.
“It’s not about me, it’s about our program. It’s a team effort, it’s a program effort,” he said.
“You believe and trust the process and guys did that. We won this game because we prepare our kids and we work hard every single day in practice. That’s the most satisfying thing.
“Those guys who were here last year got back here and weren’t going to give this away,” Harlamert said.