Saturday, May 24th, 2008
End of the postseason road for Fort Recovery
By Gary R. Rasberry
The Fort Recovery infield gathers around coach Shane McKibben, in jacket, during. . .
COLDWATER - Playing with adversity, the Fort Recovery baseball team battled to the end for the chance to make the regionals for the first time in a long time.
With two key players inactive due to suspension, the Indians looked like the momentum from Wednesday's late-inning win over Crestview was going to continue, scoring twice on Delphos Jefferson in the top of the first in the Division IV district championship game.
The momentum did not last as Jefferson scored six times in the bottom of the first and pulled away for a 15-7 win at Veterans Field in Coldwater to advance to their first regional in over 70 years. Jefferson, 18-6, will play 20-6 Lehman Thursday at Wayne High School in the regional semifinals.
Fort Recovery takes home its second straight district runners-up trophy to end the season at 12-12.
With senior leaders Clint Tobe and Bobby Rammel suspended for both Wednesday's win over Crestview and Friday's game, the Indians did a lot of shuffling, going to sophomore A.J. Backs for the start on the mound.
"I'm just happy we played seven and finished, kept our heads up," said Fort Recovery coach Shane McKibben. The Indians got their fans rolling in the top of the first as Curt Heitkamp led off with a single off Josh Miller. Cody Fiely followed with a double to right to score Heitkamp for the opening run. Two outs later, Travis Hart singled in Fiely to make it 2-0 in favor of Fort Recovery.
Much like it did against Minster on Wednesday, Jefferson did not waste time either. Cory Bastian and Sean Fisher led off the bottom of the first with back-to-back singles. Miller followed with a grounder to second that was booted, scoring Bastian. Fisher later scored on a wild pitch to tie the game. After Adam Kraning was hit by a pitch, Aaron Schuerman doubled in two runs to make it 4-2.
Indians coach Shane McKibben wasted no time, calling Heitkamp from behind the plate to relieve Backs, who did not retire a batter. The Jeff-Cats continued the attack as new catcher Nathan Keller could not hold on to a strike three on Matt Gerdeman, allowing Schuerman to score to make it 5-0. Gerdeman later scored on a Taylor Hesseling single. In all, Jefferson sent 12 men to the plate, scoring six times on five hits.
"When you score two like that, we needed the guys get out there and help A.J. like that," said McKibben. "It was going to take our best effort behind him today, and it just didn't happen. You just roll the dice and it didn't work tonight."
"We talked about the hitting we've done during this streak of 14 (wins) out of our last 15," said Jefferson coach Troy Montenery. "It's hard to explain. Once it starts coming, it keeps rolling along with these guys."
Jefferson scored three more times in the second, then put the game away for good with four more in the third before adding two more in the bottom of the sixth.
Fort Recovery, however, refused to back down, getting two more in the second inning when Toby Metzger, reached on an error by the third baseman to allow Greg Kahlig and Heitkamp to score to cut it to 6-4. Damon Jospeh came on in the third and kept the Indians scoreless until the sixth, when the Indians got three big two-out singles by Heitkamp, Fiely and Metzger to cut the lead to 13-7. Josh Miller came on and allowed just two hits over the 1 1/3 innings to give the Jeff-Cats the win.
Heitkamp concludes his career with the Indians by going 4-for-4 with two runs scored. Fiely went 2-for-3 with a pair of runs.
McKibben was proud of his team's determination in adverse conditions to not keep fighting to force the game to the seventh.
"We wanted to finish," said McKibben. "The game kind of slipped from us. The beginning of the year, we talked about finishing: finishing the play, finishing the inning, finish the game. I'm happy how we responded. When things got away from us like that, we tried to get some guys in and give everybody a bit of the opportunity to step on the stage. Hat's off to Jefferson. We knew they were a hot team swinging the bat and I wish them luck."