ELIDA – St. Henry’s 8-5 win over Delphos St. John’s in the Division IV baseball regional championship game on Friday at Elida’s Ed Sandy Field felt like it might be over early when the Redskins scored five runs in the first inning.
But it wasn’t.
It felt the same way when St. Henry had leads of 6-2 after three innings and 8-3 after five innings.
But it wasn’t.
The Redskins found themselves facing a situation where, in the top of the seventh inning, St. John’s had two runners on base and the tying run at the plate.
But this time it was over when St. Henry pitcher Devin Delzeith got a strikeout to end the game and send the Redskins (24-6) on to a state semifinal match-up with defending Division IV state champion Russia next Thursday in Akron at 4 p.m.
After the game when someone told St. Henry coach Mike Gast that it was an exciting game, he said, “A little too exciting.”
Gast said St. Henry was prepared for the possibility of the game getting close, though, despite the fact it had won a regular-season Midwest Athletic Conference match-up with St. John’s 14-6.
“What we talked about yesterday after the game (a regional semifinal win over North Central) was if we happened to get an early lead to make sure we weren’t content. We had to add some runs there at the end which proved to be really big for us,” he said, referring to scoring runs in the fourth and fifth innings.
St. John’s coach Jerry Jackson said, “I knew we could get some good swings on these guys. We were starting to gel, we were swinging the bats better. We just put ourselves in a big hole in that first inning. We made it a ball game. These guys didn’t want to give up. They were fighting to the bitter end. I’m so proud of them.
“You want that chance,” he said about being in position to possibly tie the game in the seventh inning.
St. Henry’s big first inning started when Bryce Brookhart walked, a passed ball allowed him to go to second base and Hayden Boeckman’s single scored him. That lead grew to 2-0 when Drew Schwieterman doubled to score Boeckman. The next three batters, Lucas Clune, Nolan Kunkler and Caden Bergman walked, which forced in a run. And a single by Delzeith drove in the fourth and fifth runs.
After St. Henry rebuilt its five-run lead at 8-3 after five innings, St. John’s responded with a run in the top of the sixth on a single by T.J. Werts, a single by Grant Ulm and an infield error on a ball hit by Collin Feathers to make it 8-4
In the seventh inning the Blue Jays scored again on a double by Landon Grothaus and two St. Henry errors before the Redskins secured the 8-5 win.
St. John’s finished its season 21-10. Jackson said he knew this team had the potential to be successful.
“I did but I didn’t think it would happen this fast. I knew this team was going to get better throughout the year and I think they showed it game by game. Our conference, the MAC, does prepare us for this, and now you had two MAC teams playing for the regional championship,” he said.
Brookhart, Boeckman, Schwieterman and Delzeith had two hits for St. Henry. Griffin Mericle had two hits for St. John’s.