SHAWNEE TOWNSHIP – After Saturday’s frustrating loss to Van Wert, Elida ACME baseball coach Jared Blymyer knew his team could not afford to get relaxed with any lead.
On Saturday, Elida watched its early 7-0 lead vanish as Van Wert roared back for a 10-8 win at the ACME district double-elimination baseball tournament at Shawnee.
In Sunday’s loser’s bracket matchup of the district tournament against St. Marys, Elida, once again, jumped out to an early lead.
And just like Saturday, Elida watched its lead disappear as St. Marys eventually pulled away for a 10-4 victory over the Bulldogs.
With the win, St. Marys will take on Van Wert tonight at 5 p.m. at Shawnee for the district championship.
However, St. Marys will need to defeat Van Wert twice tonight in order to win the district title and advance to next weekend’s ACME State Tournament at Coldwater (July 20-22). Van Wert is undefeated in the district tournament. So, St. Marys needs to win tonight’s 5 p.m. contest and force a second game.
On Friday, the first day of the district tournament, Van Wert slipped past St. Marys, 2-1.
On Sunday, St. Marys’ bats got busy, while Elida made several costly errors in the field.
The Roughriders pounded 11 base hits, while the Bulldogs committed five errors.
“The bats were hot. Up and down the lineup, everyone was getting hits.,” St. Marys coach Mason Gross said. “We took advantage of their mistakes and we were aggressive on the base paths. Sometimes we got thrown out, sometimes we took them (the bases).”
Elida jumped on St. Marys starting pitcher Andrew Ibrahim in the first inning. The Bulldogs scored three runs on four hits. Luke Burger (2 for 4, RBI) smacked a double to deep left centerfield that drove in a run. Alec Ewing had an RBI single for Elida.
However, Ibrahim settled down after that rocky first inning. He allowed just one hit in the next four innings. Ibrahim worked five innings before being replaced on the mound by Reese Sweigart. Ibrahim struck out three and walked four, while throwing 88 pitches.
Sweigart retired six consecutive batters to close out the game for the Roughriders. Sweigart struck out three of those six batters he faced on Sunday.
“Once Andrew (Ibrahim) started to find the strike zone, he started to roll,” Gross said. “Then Reese came in and did a nice job of shutting the door on them. They were very efficient.”
St. Marys also was efficient with the bats. Riley Sweigart, Dylan Trogdlon, Logan Hale and Carson Fischbach each had two hits on Sunday. Fischbach had a solo home run in the sixth.
Heading into the bottom of the third inning on Sunday, Elida led 4-0.
That’s when things began to unravel for Elida.
St. Marys took the lead in the third, scoring five runs on three hits, while Elida committed three errors.
The Roughriders added a run in both the fourth and fifth innings. In the sixth, St. Marys tallied three more runs on two hits.
“It was very eerie in that first inning,” Blymyer said. “It was almost identical to the first inning, yesterday. There were three innings that defined our weekend. … The two big innings yesterday (against Van Wert) and the big inning today (against St. Marys) in the third. We have to play defense. We struggled throwing and catching the ball yesterday and today.”
Camden Howard got the starting nod on the mound for Elida. Howard worked five innings before being pulled for Brice Engle.
Howard was tabbed for seven runs on nine hits, while striking out three and walking one. Howard threw 81 pitches on Sunday.
“Camden Howard did a nice job of throwing strikes,” Blymyer said. “Brice did a nice job of coming in and throwing strikes, too. We expected them (St. Marys) to hit the ball. But we didn’t execute on defense and that was the difference.”
The Roughriders will attempt to knock off Van Wert tonight – a team they know quite well.
“In both games that we played Van Wert this year, it’s been close,” Gross said. “The first one was a 2-run game. The last one was a 1-run game. So, I’m sure it will be close again.”
Gross is hopeful that his pitching staff will be ready for the big challenge.
“Hopefully, we’ll have enough (pitching) for tomorrow. But we have to take care of the first one (game), first,” he said.