By Gary R. Rasberry
COLDWATER -- Coldwater versus Parkway. Over the years this game usually decided the Midwest Athletic Conference baseball title.
Friday night, with both teams holding back their ace pitchers for today's sectional tournament, the teams played like the title was on the line as the Panthers and Cavaliers battled back and forth with defense.
In the end, a clutch hit from Tyler Schwieterman with one out in the bottom of the seventh ended a 3-all tie and gave the Cavaliers a 4-3 win over the Panthers at Veterans Field. The win moves Coldwater to 19-3 on the season and inches the team closer to its first conference title since 2001 at 6-0. Parkway drops to 10-11 with the loss and 3-3 in the MAC.
Both teams were matched evenly for the first six innings. Parkway scored three times in the top of the second, only to have Coldwater even the game in the bottom of the inning.
Then the pitchers and defense took over for the next three innings as both teams used some solid defense to keep each other scoreless. "Coldwater had some opportunities to score. We made some big plays," said Panther skipper Eric Stachler, no stranger to the Panther-Cavalier battles during his years playing for Coldwater. "Krogy (Panther starter Trevor Krogman) went out there and made some big pitches to get batters out. I thought as a freshman, he was very poised. He didn't get rattled too much. He made the pitches when he needed to."
"From (the third inning) on, it was defense," said Coldwater coach Brian Harlamert. "It was two very solid teams. Eric has them playing well. ... I think they (Parkway) wanted this game more than we did early in the game."
Coldwater tried to use to trickery in the bottom of the sixth to score the go-ahead run. Matt Howell led off with a single and moved up to second on a sacrifice bunt by Troy Siefring. An errant pickoff throw sent Howell to third before Ryan Gerlach grounded out to third for the second out.
Craig Wellman walked to put runners on the corners and Stachler decided to bring in Jake Long in to get out of the jam. After getting a strike on Geier, Wellman strayed off first in an attempt to get into a rundown long enough to get Howell home. Long threw to Rikki Covarrubius to kept close tabs on Howell and got the tag on Wellman to end the threat.
In the bottom of the seventh, Geier, who got to come back up after being the last batter of the sixth, walked. Ahrens tried the bunt but popped it up. Long made a great dive to get the out and just missed doubling up Geier at first. Trent Gerlach singled to put runners on first and third before Tyler Schwieterman followed up by taking Long's 1-1 offering to center for the game-winning hit.
"You can't say enough about our senior class," said Harlamert. "Craig (Koesters) got in trouble early on but battled for the rest of the game. In the bottom of the seventh we got a big hit from Trent to go first and third. You had back-to-back-to-back seniors (Arhens, Gerlach and Schwieterman) who came through."
Stachler said he was proud of his team after the game. He also told his team that a rematch could come if both teams win today.
"Before we have to do that, we have to take care of business tomorrow," said Stachler. "We play a good St. Henry team. It'll be tough, but the way we're playing, we're more than capable."
Coldwater plays St. John's at noon today for the first game of the Division III sectional finals at Veterans Field. The Parkway-St. Henry game has been moved back an hour to 3:30 p.m.