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Tuesday, April 17th, 2007

Loughridge delivers game-winner

By Ryan Hines

Celina baseball players mob teammate Eric Loughridge, in middle, after the Bulld. . .

A never-say-die effort helped the Celina baseball team win its third straight game as the Bulldogs rallied from two runs down in the bottom of the seventh for a 4-3 victory over Coldwater in a matchup of Mercer County squads.
Celina senior Eric Loughridge hustled out an infield single, just beating the throw to first base, allowing Nick Gray to score the winning run as the Bulldogs improved to 5-7 on the season.
"That sure was exciting," said Celina head coach Drew Braun. "I was a little worried going into the seventh inning down two runs and having had just one hit to that point, but our kids said never-say-die and we just went out and got the job done."
"I thought that I hit it far enough to get out of the infield, but I think that the wind knocked it down some and I saw the second baseman was going to have a play on it and I just went on a dead sprint to first and I ended up safe," said Loughridge, who was down 0-2 in the count before coming through for the Bulldogs.
Coldwater looked in control after scoring a pair of runs in the sixth inning, which broke a 1-1 tie. Tyler James gave the Cavaliers the lead with an RBI single scoring Tony Harlamert while the second run (Ryan Geier) scored when the Celina centerfielder mishandled the ball.
Cavalier starting pitcher Bill Geeslin was cruising in his first start on the hill this spring only allowing one hit with seven strikeouts before running into trouble in the seventh frame.
Celina's Jimmy Fishpaw lined a single up the middle and Brian Brockly, the nine-hole hitter, was hit by a pitch for the second time in the game putting two runners on base and no outs.
Bulldogs lead-off man Nick Gray then tried to sacrifice bunt the two runners up one base, but the bunt was laid perfect down the third-base line and the Celina senior raced to first base with a single to load the bases.
The bases-loaded situation prompted a pitching change for Coldwater as shortstop Cory Klenke switched spots on the infield with Geeslin.
Klenke recorded the first out himself on a tapper back to the mound where he ran and tagged out the runner coming home. Celina made it a one-run game at 3-2 with a run-scoring fielder's choice by John Bonvillian scoring Brockly.
With two outs recorded, Jeremy Kerr hit a weak bouncer to shortstop but Geeslin threw wildly in the dirt at first base allowing the game-tying run to score on what should have been the final out of the contest.
"Our saying is focus, fun and finish. We haven't been finishing situations out in this program recently in the spring and summer and that's something that we have to do. We have to finish," said Coldwater head coach Brian Harlamert. "We didn't lose that game just in the seventh, we lost it by leaving too many runners on base throughout the game along with some mistakes in the seventh. We just didn't finish the game, gave Celina opportunities and they came through on those opportunities."
After Joel Lange was hit by a Klenke pitch, Loughridge stepped to the plate the hit a soft liner up the middle that was knocked down by the stiff wind. The ball hit just behind second base and the Cavaliers' James fielded the ball immediately and threw to first but the bang-bang play at first base went in favor of Celina.
"Like I always tell the kids, you can always hustle, and hustle helped us win this game today," said Braun. "You can't control everything that happens, but hustling is the one thing that you can always control and Eric did a great job of hustling down the line."
The game-winning hit by Loughridge made a winner out of Bonvillian, who threw all seven innings allowing three runs, two earned, and 12 hits.
"Coldwater is a sound baseball team and they hit the ball, but John pitched a whale of a game to keep us in it and limiting their damage when they got runners on," said Braun. "We got into some jams, but we made a play here and there and hung around until our offense got going a little bit."
Celina is back in action again today hosting Van Wert for a Western Buckeye League contest while Coldwater returns to the field for a Midwest Athletic Conference showdown at unbeaten Minster.
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