Friday, June 3rd, 2011
By Gary R. Rasberry
Minster to play for state championship
Division IV State Baseball Semifinals
  COLUMBUS - Just when it looked like Newark Catholic was going to beat Minster and reach the Division IV state championship game, the momentum completely changed in the Wildcats' favor as the defensive wheels fell off for the Green Wave.
The Wildcats took advantage of five Green Wave errors in the bottom of the fifth inning, resulting in five unearned runs, and Minster advanced to the D-IV state championship baseball game with a 6-5 win over Newark Catholic at Huntington Park in Columbus on Thursday night.
Minster (22-8) will face New Middletown Springfield Local at 1 p.m. on Saturday for the state title. Springfield defeated Midwest Athletic Conference champion Delphos St. John's 9-2 in the other semifinal matchup.
"We don't do what just occurred without the fans behind us," said Minster's coach Mike Wiss.
The Green Wave (22-7) got things rolling right away. James Thomas led off the game with a walk and came home quickly as Garrett Vernau ripped a shot into the right-centerfield gap for an RBI triple. After Minster's pitcher Doug Huber induced Jimmy Lough to pop out, Cory Murphy brought home Vernau with an RBI single to make the score 2-0 in favor of Newark Catholic.
Huber settled down after allowing the pair of runs in the first. In the second, he allowed just a Hunter Nance single, but Minster's catcher Ben Heitbrink threw out the runner trying to steal to end the inning. In the third, Thomas led off with a single, but Huber retired the next three batters.
Minster began to work its way back in the game during the bottom of the second inning. Craig Purpus led off the inning with a double to the gap in right-centerfield. After Lough struck out Mitchel Poeppelman, Huber contributed an RBI single to score Purpus while cutting the deficit to 2-1.
The Wave pushed their lead to three runs by scoring a pair in the top of the fourth frame. Judah Wollenberg drew a one-out walk off Huber, and Tanner Potts followed with an RBI double deep to the left-centerfield gap to score Wollenberg and make the score 3-1. Nate Taylor followed with an RBI single for a 4-1 Newark Catholic lead. The Wave had runners at first and second with two outs before Minster's Austin Knapke came in to pitch in relief and was able to record the final out of the inning without any more damage.
Lough, who reached 88 mph on the radar gun several times in the game, retired 10 straight Minster batters at one point before the Wildcats took advantage of some shaky defense by Newark Catholic in the bottom of the fifth inning. With two away, Ryan Hoying singled and Devon Poeppelman appeared to have popped out in foul territory, but Wave's first baseman Taylor could not hold on to the ball, giving Poeppelman new life. Poeppelman reached on an error to bring up Chase Paxson, who lofted a single to left that bounced past a Newark Catholic defender, allowing two runs to score and making the score 4-3. Adam Niemeyer followed by reaching on an error to bring up Purpus with Wildcats' runners on the corners. Purpus grounded to short, but Thomas misplayed his second straight chance to allow Paxson to score and tie the game.
Mitchel Poeppelman stepped up and lofted a three-run double to straight-away centerfield, clearing the bases and giving Minster a 6-4 lead.
"What occurred today, I told the guys to turn around (after the game) and look at the fifth inning (on the scoreboard)," said Wiss. "That whole thing occurred in the fifth inning with no one on base and two outs. Mitchel's double to the wall was very important that inning. I don't know who was up, but when the ball got hit to leftfield, I was holding Ryan Hoying until (Nance) muffed the ball, then two runs scored because of it.
"Honestly, when we found out a little bit about Newark Catholic, it was they could pitch well, and they could hit well. The one thing I heard was they were suspect with the gloves."
"We just rallied. That's what this team does," said Minster's Mitchel Poeppelman. "We rally around each other. One base hit, and it just started. They gave us a couple of errors, but it just worked out. I just tried to put the ball into play. I just wanted to score the run. It worked out for me."
Knapke retired the side in the fifth, but got into a major jam in the top of the sixth, hitting two batters and allowing Newark Catholic to pull to within a run with the scoreboard showing Minster on top 6-5. Then with the bases loaded and two outs, Knapke bore down and got Jimmy Lough to hit a ground ball up the middle. Devon Poeppelman made a diving stop and threw to Purpus to get an out and end the threat.
"I knew it would be a big play," said Devon, the younger brother to Mitchel. "It was my turn to step up and be that guy. I just gave it my all. Luckily I got to it and I knew Craig would be there for the flip. Worked out in our favor."
Wiss then turned to the bullpen for the second time of the game and called on Adam Niemeyer, the likely starting pitcher for Saturday's state title game. The change in velocity was evident, as Niemeyer enticed a ground out and registered two straight strikeouts to end the game.
"Doug (Huber) didn't have it tonight," said Wiss. "Middle innings, Austin, off-speed, was very important. He went one time through the order, and that one time got us to the point where could get Adam in. We went from soft (throwing) Doug to soft (throwing) AK to hard-throwing Adam, and it worked."
Springfield Local 9, Delphos St. John's 2
The Blue Jays, making their first-ever state appearance, finished the season at 17-5 as Tigers' pitcher Nick Russell held St. John's to just six hits while striking out six.
St. John's drew first blood in the top of the first, but the Tigers plated three in the bottom half of the first and added three runs each in the fourth and fifth innings.
St. John's starting pitcher Curtis Geise took the loss after giving up six runs on seven hits over the first four innings. Jordan Leininger allowed the final three runs during the final two innings.
Ronnie Bovo paced the Tigers with a 2-for-3 game and three RBI while Russell helped his own cause by going 2-for-4 with an RBI.
Leininger was 2-for-3 with a double for the Blue Jays while Austin Vogt and Troy Warnecke each added doubles.
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