By Robb Hemmelgarn
ST. HENRY -- The Celina baseball team overcame an early deficit and fought off a late St. Henry rally to leave the Wally Post Athletic Complex with a 9-7 upset victory for the Bulldogs over the state-ranked Redskins.
"This is a very good game for us to win tonight after the kind of season we have had so far," remarked 25-year Celina coach Bruce Boley. "The thing I really liked about tonight was that we were up 5-1 and although St. Henry came back, like we figured they would, we didn't give up. I saw something in our kids that we have been hoping to see -- they had a competitive spirit and a lot of different fellas stepped up tonight and I am just tickled for them to win a big game like this on the road."
The Redskins struck pay dirt first in the second inning with a run by sophomore Darren Siefring, who reached base on a double.
The Bulldogs were held hitless by St. Henry starter Ryan Hartke in the second and third frames, but then exploded for five runs in the fourth inning to jump ahead 5-1. The rally was aided by two hits and a St. Henry fielding error before Jimmy Fishpaw's three-run home run to left-centerfield helped put his team in command.
"We were able to get ahead in the count tonight, and our kids were patient at the plate and I think that made a really big difference," commented Boley. "We got some real good swings in and hit the ball very well at times -- that was a plus offensively for us." The St. Henry offense got to work in the bottom of the fourth inning and slowly began to chip away at the four-run deficit. Jon Clune led the inning off by drawing a walk before Tyler Post and Darren Siefring each followed up with hits. All three scored in the inning to pull the home team to within a run at 5-4.
Undaunted, the Bulldogs responded with a lead-off single in the fifth inning from John Bonvillian with Eric Braun smacking a double shortly thereafter. Hartke was immediately replaced on the mound by Brent Kremer, but both base runners scored a short time later. Following four and a half innings of action, the Bulldogs were up 7-4.
St. Henry answered with another big inning of its own in the bottom of the fifth when Mike Gast started things off with a single followed by Kyle Bruggeman drawing a walk off Celina starter Scott Luthman.
With no outs and two runners on, Andy Puthoff stepped up to the plate and swung on the first pitch, sending the ball into orbit in the same direction as Fishpaw's bomb an inning earlier and over the left-centerfield fence. The three-run home run knotted the game at seven runs apiece.
The Bulldogs added two more runs in their half of the sixth inning as Matt Paulus, who had two hits in the game, and Nick Gray each crossed home plate.
The Redskins had no answers in their final two at-bats and fell by the two-run deficit.
"We played a very poor game today," commented a disappointed St. Henry coach John Dorner. "We gave up a lot of runs we shouldn't have and made a lot of mistakes at very crucial times. We finally battled back to tie the game in the fifth inning, and then we started the sixth off with a walk and then did the same thing in the seventh inning. We played one of our poorest ball games of the year, and we can't hope to win by making the same mistakes that we've been making."
The Redskins (12-6), are back in action at home today in a key Midwest Athletic Conference battle with the rival Coldwater Cavaliers, while Celina (5-13) travels to Lima to face the Bath Wildcats. On Monday, the Bulldogs will host Ottawa Glandorf, rather than traveling to Lima Senior as originally scheduled.