By Ryan Hines
FINDLAY -- Coldwater got exactly what it wanted in Saturday's Division III regional final at Findlay High School against Columbus Academy.
The Cavaliers got a solid pitching performance, quick start on offense and flawless defense on the way to qualifying for the state baseball tournament after an 8-3 victory.
The Cavaliers (29-3) now head to the state baseball tournament at Thurman Munson Memorial Stadium with signs of a sixth state title clearly in sight. Coldwater will face Perry (25-5) on Friday at 1:30 p.m. while New Albany (16-12) will take on Barnesville (21-4) in the other state semifinal contest set for 10 a.m. also on Friday.
"This is the greatest feeling in the world," said senior catcher and team leader Trent Gerlach. "We want to win a state title more than anything in the world and now we're two games away from the goal that we set at the beginning of the year."
Coldwater dug out of a two-run deficit after one inning of play with a five-run explosion in the top of the second inning. Trent Gerlach led off the second inning with a single and was followed by a walk to Tyler Schwieterman. Gerlach and Schwieterman moved up one base each on a sacrifice bunt from Brent Schwieterman before a walk to Troy Siefring loaded the bases with one out.
Ryan Gerlach, the Cavaliers' number-nine hitter, then lined a single to leftfield scoring two runs and tying the score at 2-2. Coldwater wasn't done though as Craig Wellman stepped to the plate and delivered a two-run single of his own to give Coldwater a 4-2 advantage. Chad Geier capped the five-run inning with a RBI single giving Coldwater a 5-2 lead while knocking Columbus Academy starting pitcher Jeff Morosky out of the game after just 12/3 innings of work.
The offensive outburst was just what Coldwater starting pitcher Craig Koesters needed as the senior righthan-der (7-1 record) found his rhythm after a rocky first inning.
Koesters gave up two runs on four hits in the first inning, but only allowed one more run and three more hits the rest of the way while striking out five in the complete-game win.
"I had a lot of emotions running through me before the game because of the importance of the game but once we got some early runs I was able to settle down and just pitch my game," said Koesters. "That's usually how I am when I pitch, I get better the further I go along."
"I think at the beginning of the game that he wasn't 100 percent confident in his stuff but once we came back with five runs in the second inning, that was the best thing for us," said Harlamert. "That helped refocus us, especially Craig and he got ahead of batters and just did what he has done for us all year. He has always gotten better as the game goes on this year and once he got upset after the first inning, he really settled down."
"Craig struggled a little in the first inning, but after we got him a couple of runs that gave him more confidence and he took care of the rest on the mound," said Gerlach. "I came in the dugout after the first inning and told the guys that if we can't score more than two runs in this game, we don't deserve to win this game."
The Cavaliers offense gave Koesters some offensive insurance in the fourth inning.
Troy Siefring and Ryan Gerlach ripped back-to-back singles and Craig Wellman loaded the bases when he reached on a Columbus Academy error. A sacrifice fly by Chad Geier, a RBI single by Dusty Ahrens and a perfectly executed double steal with Gerlach scoring gave the Cavaliers a convincing 8-2 lead.
Columbus Academy, the defending Division III state runners-up, scored a meaningless run on three straight singles in the fifth inning but it was too little too late as the Cavaliers reach the state tournament for the 17th time in school history.
"The feeling of getting back to state is great," admitted Harlamert. "This program was established a long time ago by coach Lou Brunswick and I think that guys know about the history of our baseball program and wanted to carry on the tradition. Our goal was to get to the state tournament and now that we're there, our focus is to go out and win it."