BLUFFTON — St. Marys baseball coach Adam Graves didn’t have a crystal ball to predict how the Roughriders’ Bluffton Division II district championship game against Upper Sandusky on Saturday would play out.
He didn’t need one. He had a riding lawnmower instead.
A day before St. Marys stunned state-ranked Upper Sandusky 9-3 on Saturday, Graves was cutting the grass in his yard and imagining what would be the best possible script for the Roughriders to follow in their district championship game.
“I was kind running through scenarios in my head. The first inning kind of played out the way I was thinking — We get the first guy on, we bunt him over and we can go from there,” Graves said.
St. Marys started Saturday’s game with leadoff hitter Kasey Gross drawing a walk and A.J. Dieringer bunting him over to second base in the top of the first inning.
And then St. Marys went from there and just kept going, and going and going. The Roughriders (15-13) sent 10 batters to the plate and scored six runs in the first inning. They added three more runs in the second inning and mowed down No. 6-ranked Upper Sandusky (25-4).
That win put St. Marys in a Division II Bowling Green regional semifinal game against Ontario at 2 p.m. Thursday. It will be St. Marys’ first trip to a baseball regional since 2000.
“It was big for us to get on them early. We felt like, coming in, the pressure wasn’t on us. We were 14-13, they were 25-3,” Graves said. “We felt like we needed to dictate the game. Once we could put the pressure on them and force them to field the ball and make plays and stuff like that we would be successful today.
“We were very patient in the first inning and their pitcher (Aaron Flowers) kind of struggled. He kind of struggled and we didn’t help him out,” he said.
By one sideline count, Flowers threw 53 pitches in the first inning. When the first two St. Marys batters in the second inning reached base, Flowers’ time on the mound was done and shortstop Jacob Halter became the pitcher.
Starter Ethan Hollandsworth (1 strikeout, 3 walks, 6 hits allowed) pitched the first four innings for St. Marys and Joel Kogge got the save with three innings of one-hit relief.
“When we were in the gym this morning he (Hollandsworth) had a little pep in his step. I felt good coming in with him that he was going to be relaxed,” Graves said.
Hollandsworth said, “Six runs in the first inning, that’s a really good feeling coming out there to get it started.”
Brayden Sullivan had two hits and two runs batted in and Jack Boos also drove in two runs for the Roughriders.
St. Marys started the season by losing seven of its first nine games before turning things around.
Some of the Roughriders pointed to regular season wins in rivalry games as turning points.
“I think beating both of our rivals, Celina and Wapak, gave us a lot of momentum going into the end of the year. We really focused on those games and built the rest of the way,” Dieringer said.
Hollandsworth said a 7-4 win over Wapakoneta in April was “where it clicked.”
“We kept coming, kept practicing, we never thought we were out of it,” he said.
St. Marys’ two district victories at Bluffton University’s Memorial Field were against state-ranked teams: No. 6 Upper Sandusky and No. 11 Wapakoneta.
The Roughriders had six hits Saturday and three hits in a 2-0 semifinal win over Wapakoneta last Thursday.
“We may not be the flashiest team but we just find ways to win. We’re just able to find a way,” Dieringer said.
Wayne Trace 7, Coldwater 0
ELIDA — Coldwater’s Braylen Harlamert and Evan Harlamert, who allowed no earned runs, four hits and three walks while striking out six in seven innings, each had two hits in a district final.
Reach Jim Naveau at 567-242-0414.