By Ryan Hines
CANTON -- Coldwater earned its chance to play for a sixth state baseball title today in the Division III state finals after picking up a nerve-racking 5-4 win over Perry in the state semifinal contest at Thurman Munson Stadium on Friday afternoon.
"This was just a battle between two very good teams," said Coldwater head coach Brian Harlamert. "These two teams (referring to Coldwater and Perry) are probably the best two teams left in Division III and we each played like it."
"I wish them (Coldwater) the best of luck in the finals because they really battled to win this game," said Perry head coach Mike Ryan. "It's just too bad that somebody had to lose this game because both teams really battled all seven innings."
The Cavaliers (28-3) will face New Albany (18-12), who defeated Barnesville 9-2 in the other state semifinal contest, in the state finals today at 11 a.m.
Coldwater fans had to hold their collective breaths, after watching the Cavaliers take the lead in the top of the seventh, until the final out was recorded as a Perry rally ended in the bottom of the seventh inning. Tied at 2-2, the Cavaliers brought the Orange and Black fans to their feet in the top of the seventh inning with a three-run inning sparked by a lead-off walk to Trent Gerlach.
Gerlach moved to second base on a perfect sacrifice bunt by Tyler Schwieterman before Brent Schwieterman drew the second walk of the inning. Following the second out of the frame, Troy Siefring drew another walk to load the bases for Cavaliers' designated hitter Ryan Gerlach, who fills the nine-hole in the lineup.
Standing in the box with a 2-1 count, Gerlach hit a sharp groundball through the left side
of the infield bringing home Trent Gerlach easily from third base while also driving home Brent Schwieterman who slid safely into home plate when the ball bounced off the catcher's glove.
With Wellman now up for the Cavaliers and Siefring on third (Continued from page 6)
base, Perry catcher Jeremy Goldizen fired the ball back to pitcher Jake New, who was upset that the last pitch he threw was called a ball.
A clearly frustrated New glared at the home plate umpire and then tried to half-heartedly snag the ball with his glove on Goldizen's return throw to the mound and the ball bounced off of New's glove. Siefring saw the ball bounce off of New's glove and alertly took off for home, beating the throw to the plate and giving Coldwater a 5-2 lead entering the bottom half of the seventh inning. New made three errors on the mound in just three innings of work in relief of Perry starter Mike Ryan Jr. who struggled with his control walking three and hitting three Coldwater batters.
"Troy read the ball quicker than I did and he saw it bounce off the pitcher's glove and he got a great jump. It was just a great play on his part," said Harlamert. "I saw the ball go off of his glove too, but by the time I started yelling at Troy to go, he was already past me. There's not many sophomores in the state of Ohio that know the game of baseball like Troy does."
With ace pitcher Steve Wenning (15-0) on the mound and a three-run advantage, things looked really good for the Cavaliers but Coldwater certainly needed the fifth and final run as Perry mounted a comeback in the bottom of the seventh inning.
Scott Walters led off with a single and Mike Bohrer connected for a double putting runners at second and third base with no outs. Following the first out of the inning, Coldwater first baseman Tyler Schwieterman made a stellar defensive play on a groundball for the second out of the inning,
but Walters raced home for Perry cutting the Coldwater lead to two runs.
Goldizen, who is getting scouted by the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox, then lined a RBI single cutting the Cavaliers lead to just one run.
"We had Craig (Koesters) warming up a little bit but Steve has pitched 15 games for us and he has left it out on the mound for us each time," lauded Harlamert. "I told the guys before the game that win or lose, that they had to leave it all on the field and everybody did that. He's tired right now I'm sure."
However, Wenning, like he has all year long, buckled down and got the final out of the game on a flyball to centerfield sending the entire Cavaliers team onto the field to celebrate the victory.
Before the seventh inning fireworks by both teams, Coldwater scored one run in the first inning on a RBI single from Brent Schwieterman and one run in the fifth inning when Brady Geier came in as a pinch runner and scored on a Perry error.
Koesters (7-1) will get the ball to start today's state final, but despite pitching all seven innings and throwing 104 pitchers in the semifinal win, Wenning insists that he will be available if needed today in the state finals.
"I'll throw three innings if we need it," said Wenning.