VAN WERT — It probably wasn’t the way Van Wert baseball head coach Charlie Witten drew it up, but the longtime skipper gladly accepted the win.
After Van Wert jumped out to a 5-1 lead through five innings, Kalida then scored four runs in the top of the sixth on just one base hit, to knot the game at 5 each. The Cougars committed three errors in the sixth.
However, Van Wert regrouped and managed to scratch out the decisive run in the bottom of the seventh to slip out with a thrilling 6-5 victory over Kalida in a nonleague affair Saturday at Smiley Park’s Russell Fisher Field.
“I know they (Kalida) scored four runs and did not get the ball out of the infield. So, that was (the cause of) my frustrations,” Witten said about the top of the sixth inning. I’m just glad we didn’t fold after that, and glad we came back at them and got the win.”
With two outs in the bottom of the seventh, Van Wert first baseman Turner Witten (3 for 4), Coach Witten’s son, hit a ground ball to the left side of the infield with teammate Owen Treece on third base. The throw to first base was late, which allowed Treece to come in to score the winning run for the Cougars (11-3).
Treece led off the seventh with a single. For the game, Treece was 2 for 3 at the plate, including a double.
Treece, Van Wert’s pitching ace, started Saturday’s game at catcher. The Wittenberg University-bound quarterback, eventually took over pitching duties in the sixth for the Cougars.
Ethan Rupert got the starting nod on the mound for Van Wert.
The junior right-hander was cruising through Kalida’s batting order. Rupert did not allow a base hit until the fourth inning, when Ryan Lucke (2 for 4) recorded an infield hit for the Wildcats.
Rupert worked five-plus innings before being lifted for Treece.
In his five-plus innings of work, Rupert gave up four runs on two hits, while striking out one, walking two and hitting two batters. Rupert threw just 52 pitches on the day.
Treece gave up one hit in his two innings of work.
“Ethan did a great job through five (innings),” Witten said. “He went out in that sixth inning, gave up an infield hit and walked two. We’re up four. … So, we thought we would get Owen some work today. So, that’s why we got him out there.”
Carson Klausing started on the hill for Kalida (8-3). He pitched four innings before Ryan Klausing came in to take over pitching duties.
Carson Klausing gave up five runs on five hits. He fanned one and walked six, while tossing 75 pitches.
Ryan Klausing closed out the game, giving up one run on two hits.
Van Wert got on the board first.
In the home half of the second, Jacob Place (1 for 4, 4 RBI) hit a sacrifice fly to bring Witten in from third. Witten started off the inning with a double.
In the top of the fourth, Kalida knotted the game at 1, when Colin Hoffman’s grounder to the left side of the infield plated Lucke.
However, the Cougars came roaring back.
In the bottom of the fourth, Place came up with the big hit of the day for the Cougars – a double to right centerfield that scored three runs for Van Wert, to give the home team the four-run advantage.
“We had some guys swing it pretty well,” Witten said. “Jake Place has had a great three or four days. He’s the one who hit the double with bases loaded to score three. He’s been doing a really good job, offensively, for us. We feel really comfortable about our lineup, as far as how we swing the bat. … It’s just a matter of making plays on defense.”