By Gary R. Rasberry
MINSTER -- After seeing leads fall by the wayside in early games this season, Celina finally got a chance to turn the tables.
Trailing 4-3 in the top of the seventh, The Bulldogs scored three times and held off Minster in the bottom of the seventh for a 6-4 win in nonleague ACME baseball at Hanover Street Park in Minster.
The win snaps Celina's six-game losing streak to start the season and puts the team at 1-6. Minster drops just its second decision in six games.
Unlike the first six games of the season, Celina stayed confident despite trailing 3-1 after four innings and later 4-3 after the fifth.
Minster broke a 3-all tie in the bottom of the fifth When Dan Mueller reached on an error, stole second and third and later scored on Chris Stueve's sacrifice fly. Celina could not score in the sixth, but denied Minster insurance in the bottom of the inning when first baseman Jordan Heuker threw home to catcher Darren Fleck, who tagged Jake Luttmer on the slide off a Andrew Baumer infield grounder. Minster left runners on second and third to end the inning and set up an important seventh.
Trailing 4-3, Heuker led off the seventh with a fly out before Allan Heitbrink plunked Matt Paulus. Brandon Ley, 1-for-3 with three steals already, hit a shot to deep right centerfield, scoring Paulus easily to tie the game and reaching third on a triple. Fleck reached first on a squeeze attempt in front of the plate, where Mueller tagged out the incoming Ley for the second out but Dustin Woods doubled home Fleck to give Celina the lead.
Dustin Abrahamson followed with a single to score Woods making it 6-4. Aaron Heitbrink came in for brother Allan to try and stop the rally. Andy Sell welcomed the other Heitbrink with a single and Nick Gray was plunked with a pitch but Aaron Heitbrink got out of the jam by getting Jim Fishpaw to look at strike three.
"Tonight we swung at strikes," said Celina coach Ron Fortkamp. "What we had been doing in the first six ballgames, when we really needed something, is swing at bad pitches. Maybe we turned the corner."
"It was back and forth all the way," said Minster coach Austin Kaylor. "Credit to (Celina's) kids, they came right back. I thought we might have been out of the woods when we got the out at the plate on the squeeze, but again, they came right at us. They came out and were fired up.
"I don't know how many gaps they hit or outfielders they burned. They turned us time and time again. That's a credit to them," added Kaylor.
All that remained for Celina was for Sell to wrap up a solid game on the mound. Mueller led off by grounding to Sell for the first out before Aaron Heitbrink singled and moved to second on Stueve's groundout at third. Eric Bernhold's single just reached the outfield to put two runners on for Jon Borges, who helped his cause as the starting pitcher with a three-run homer in the bottom of the first. Sell ran the count to 2-2 before throwing in and nailing the corner of the strike zone to get Borges to look at strike three to end the game.
"This is Andy's first real varsity experience, except for a couple of innings (Wednesday)," said Fortkamp of Sell, who walked none and struck out three. "The first inning he made a mistake when he got the fastball over the plate (for Borges' homer). Other than that, his curve was working all night and when he threw the fastball, it surprised them. I thought he did a nice job working the fastball with the curve to keep them off-balance. I'll tell you, Minster has a great program. ... They just play solid ball."
Stueve and Luttmer each had two hits to pace the Wildcat attack.
Celina returns to Eastview Park tonight to play St. Henry in county ACME action but Celina's game with Wapakoneta on Saturday has been canceled.
Minster travels north on Ohio 66 to play New Bremen tonight in an Auglaize County showdown.