By Gary R. Rasberry
BOWLING GREEN -- It was a ballgame where it was a shame someone had to lose according to Celina head coach Bruce Boley and Findlay skipper Jack Foltz.
Celina and Findlay squared off in the Division I sectional tournament and gave the fans who got up early to go north to Carter Park in Bowling Green something exciting to watch.
Both Celina hurler Scott Luthman and Findlay starter Greg Smith threw gems of games, but it was the Trojans who came out on top with a 2-1 win to end the tournament run abruptly for Celina.
Luthman's numbers were impressive -- a complete game six-hitter, no walks and five strikeouts. Of the 74 pitches Luthman delivered, 48 went for strikes.
Smith was equally effective, scattering seven hits and keeping the Bulldogs scoreless until the seventh inning. Smith fired 92 pitches with 58 getting into the strike zone. "Both pitchers did a tremendous job on the mound," said Boley. "They pitched ahead in the count and made big pitches when they had to. Smith threw some quality pitches."
"Every time Celina and Findlay play, it's a war," said Trojans coach Jack Foltz. "It's usually decided by a run. It's too bad either pitcher had to lose. (Luthman) threw a heckuva game for them."
Celina's Achilles heel in the game was its inability to hit with runners in scoring position. In the third, Celina left the bases loaded for Jordan Heuker and Smith struck out Heuker to end that threat. In the fifth, Celina had runners on first and second with one out and was unable to score. Celina left 10 runners on base during the game.
"We had plenty of chances," said Boley. "If you don't take advantage of those chances and opportunities, you're going to run out of chances. That's what happened."
Luthman gave up three hits and a run in the first inning, with the run coming in on Chad Combs' double, scoring Alex Raymond. The Celina defense prevented the second run when Garrett Gray got the ball in left, threw to brother Nick at short, who threw to a waiting Caleb Byrley at home to tag out Alex Frank.
Between the second and the sixth, Luthman was nearly untouchable, retiring 10 straight at one point and not allowing another hit until the fifth. In the sixth, Zach Burke singled, moved up on a bunt and scored on a Frank single to make it 2-0.
"We hit him hard in the first inning," Foltz said of Luthman. "He dug in and threw great pitches, kept us off-balance. That's a credit to him."
Celina was down to its last three outs when the Bulldogs tried one last rally to score. Cody Koesters pinch-hit for Byrley and singled. Joe Roberts flew out to center for the first out, but Garrett Gray singled to put runners at first and second.
Eric Braun followed with a shot to short but Burke knocked the ball down to force out Gray, but the throw to first was not in time, putting runners on the corners. Luthman followed with a groundball to short that Burke couldn't handle, allowing Koesters to score to make it a one-run game.
Heuker, already 1-for-3 in the game, ended the game with a high fly that centerfielder Jeff Foltz squeezed to end the game.
"I'm extremely pleased how we battled at the end," said Boley. "We had the chance to tie with one of our leading hitters out there. It just wasn't to be."
"I think Bruce would agree that the difference in the game was, and we've been on the other end of it before, is when we had runners in scoring position, we got the couple key hits today and Celina had runners in scoring position all day and couldn't get the key hit," said coach Foltz. That's why baseball is a funny game."
Findlay (7-6) faces Bowling Green on Thursday in a sectional final game. Celina (13-6) is still unbeaten in the Western Buckeye League at 3-0 and will look to try and make a run for the league title by taking on WBL favorite Defiance on Tuesday at Defiance. The Bulldogs will travel to Lima Senior today.