Baseball: Delphos St. John’s defeats Columbus Grove to reach Division IV regional finals

ELIDA – The regular season game between Delphos St. John’s and Columbus Grove was decided by one run and their Division IV baseball regional semifinal on Thursday at Ed Sandy Field seemed destined to end that way, too, for the first six innings.

But then, as the Blue Jays coach Jerry Jackson described it, the flood gates opened in the top of the seventh inning. And St. John’s washed away the Bulldogs 4-0.

“We were kind of waiting on that the whole game. Someone was going to open the flood gates in that game, whether it was going to be us or Grove. We had opportunities earlier, both of us,” he said. “Kudos to our team for sticking with it. Cam (Elwer) did a hell of a job on the mound and our big hits in the seventh inning opened that up. That’s what we were waiting on.”

St. John’s (21-9) will play St. Henry (23-6) at 5 p.m., Friday in the Elida regional championship game with a trip to next week’s state tournament on the line.

St. Henry defeated Pioneer North Central 5-1 in Thursday’s other semifinal at Elida. During the regular season St. Henry defeated St. John’s 14-6.

St. John’s scored all four of its runs in the seventh inning when it sent 10 batters to the plate.

St. John’s pitcher Cam Elwer threw a three-hit shutout after throwing a four-hit shutout in a district championship win over Leipsic. Elwer struck out eight and walked three batters.

Both teams had chances to score earlier in the game but couldn’t take advantage of them.

Columbus Grove loaded the bases with two out in the first inning but did not score. Its leadoff hitter in the second inning got on with a hit but was picked off second base by St. John’s catcher Griffin Mericle.

In the third inning, the Bulldogs’ Brock Hoffman walked and Shep Halker followed with a single to put two runners on base and they moved to second and third on steals. Bo Birnesser followed with a fly ball that looked deep enough to score Hoffman. But St. John’s rightfielder Jack Gerker turned it into a double play by throwing Hoffman out at the plate.

St. John’s had runners on second and third bases with two out in the third inning but didn’t score. The Blue Jays also threatened in the fifth inning when they had runners at second and third but Columbus Grove threw out a runner at the plate on an what looked like it could be a sacrifice fly.

That all changed in the top of the seventh when St. John’s got four runs on three hits, two Columbus Grove errors, a walk, a hit batter and a passed ball.

With one out in that inning, Griffin Mericle reached base on an error and Landon Grothaus doubled to score him with the first run of the game. The second run scored on a fielder’s choice and Gerker singled to score the third run. The final run scored when Collin Feathers was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded.

“We just couldn’t come up with the big hit those first couple innings when we had the pressure on. Credit to Elwer, who found a way to get better as the game went on, and credit to their bats,” Columbus Grove coach Brayden Sautter said.

Elwer faced only three batters in each of the last four innings, which can be attributed in part to his ability to throw all three of his pitches – fastball, curve, change-up – for strikes.

“Once the third inning started his curve ball started to float across the plate and also his change-up started working,” Jackson said.

Getting his breaking ball over the plate for strikes made a difference “for sure,” Elwer said. “Just having that confidence that you can throw it for a strike helps me tremendously.”

Columbus Grove pitcher Shep Halker pitched six shutout innings before St. John’s big seventh inning.

“Shep did everything you could possibly ask of him. Shep did his thing. We just weren’t good enough behind him and at the plate,” Sautter said..

St. Henry 5, North Central 1

St. Henry’s win over North Central was probably never in doubt after the Redskins went out to a 5-0 lead after five innings.

But they ended up using three pitchers to close out the game when North Central sent seven batters to the plate in the sixth inning and six in the seventh inning.

It wasn’t until St. Henry’s No. 1 pitcher and its expected starter in Friday’s regional championship game, Devin Delzeith, got the final three outs on 10 pitches, that the Redskins nailed down the victory.

Drew Schwieterman, Caden Bergman and Delzeith all had two hits for St. Henry. Lucas Clune pitched the first five innings and allowed only one hit. But after the first two North Central batters in the sixth inning reached base he was replaced by Ethan Nietfeld, who was followed by Delzeith.

Reach Jim Naveau at 567-242-0414.