PDT Sports Contributor
COLUMBUS – Champions always seem to turn negative situations into positive ones in order to get the best out of each respective team member.
Wheelersburg turned a negative into a positive by ralling from a 2-0 deficit with a two-run rally in the top of the seventh inning to send the game to extra frames.
However, Coldwater’s Adam Klosterman snaked his way out of a rundown by scoring on an errant Pirate throw to win a dramatic and tense contest by a final tally of 3-2 in the Division III State Semifinals at Huntington Park in Columbus on Thursday evening.
A hard loss such as the one witnessed in the state semifinals on Thursday would devastate any coach or player, but Wheelersburg coach Michael Estep looked back with pride when reflecting upon the team’s fight and overall success over the 2014 season.
‘It might sound cliché, but when we say that we’ve been here before, we truly have been there before,” Estep said. “We knew that when those older guys called a little team meeting by the dugout, that’s exactly what they were saying. The seniors made plays, we had some timely base running by some underclassmen, and we gave ourselves a chance to win, and that’s all you can ask.”
Estep said that he felt like the Pirates played hard without letting their own emotions get the best of them.
“Your kids come in this environment, and as a coach, you hope that they just relax and play,” Estep said. “For the most part, I think that we did that. Obviously, we would’ve liked to have drawn (the rundown) a little bit differently, but we executed exactly the way that we thought. We had worked on using (Coldwater’s) aggressiveness against them all week, and we had an out there, but that’s baseball. The credit goes to them for making something happen.”
Wade Martin used yet another stellar pitching performance to keep Wheelersburg right in the thick of the contest despite the fact that the Pirate bats were stymied by loud outs for the majority of the contest.
Even though the junior pitcher ultimately received the loss on the evening, his pitching stats alone represented nothing to be ashamed of. In nine and a third innings, Martin threw 110 pitches, striking out six batters while walking a single batter by comparison and allowing three runs (two earned) on seven hits.
“Wade’s been a model of consistency,” Estep said. “It’s what he’s been for three years and that’s what he’s going to continue to be. He works hard.”
The first four innings showed all the signs of what was to come for the rest of the game as a pitcher’s duel between Martin and Cavalier pitcher Derek Thobe went the aforementioned four innings without giving up any hits to the opposite side’s batting order.
Coldwater dented the scoreboard first in the bottom of the fifth as Grant Mulkenkamp drove a Martin pitch to right center field and out of the reach of Sam Robinson and Nick Marshall as the senior picked up the first extra-base hit of the contest – a triple – to put the Cavaliers in a position to strike first, and Coldwater’s Aaron Halamert delivered with a bunt single to the third base side to give the Cavaliers a 1-0 lead after five innings of play.
Halamert’s bunt single and Matt Kramer’s single through the same method brought up some controversy, as both runners were ruled safe on throws that looked to have beaten both out at first base.
However, the Pirates were able to shake off those close plays by catching both runners off of first and second base and were able to turn a double play as a result as Wheelersburg remained well within striking distance after five complete innings.
The Pirates used the double play as motivation to attempt a rally in the sixth inning and loaded the bases with two gone. However, Jacob Roe hit a fly ball to straightaway center field on a 3-2 count and the 1-0 lead remained intact for the Cavaliers.
Coldwater then proceeded to add on another crucial run to its lead, as Brody Hoying (the cousin of former Ohio State quarterback Bobby Hoying) hit a base knock and was moved over to second on Drew Otten’s 5-3 sacrifice. Hoying then proceeded to score on Malave Bettinger’s single to center field, giving the Cavaliers a 2-0 lead after six innings of play had concluded.
The two-time defending state champions in Division III did not go down without a fight, however, and finally broke through in the seventh as Marshall’s leadoff single was followed by Nathan Jones’ rip that scored Marshall and put Jones on second base with nobody out in the inning.
After a 6-3 putout of Austin May allowed Michael Green (who was pinch-running for Jones) to advance to third base, Green came home on a 4-3 putout of Sam Robinson to tie the game at 2 apiece.
It looked like the Pirates were going to do more damage as Garrett Carmichael seemed to leg out an infield hit with two gone in the top half of the seventh. However, Carmichael was called out and Wheelersburg had to settle with a chance to win the game in extra innings.
Martin and Muhlenkamp (who relieved Thobe in the fifth inning) allowed only one hit combined over the eighth and ninth innings as well as the top of the 10th, setting up the drama to come in the bottom of the 10th.
Adam Klosterman was able to draw the first walk of the game for Coldwater and was followed by Harlamert’s single to put runners at first and second with nobody out. The Cavaliers then attempted to bunt both Klosterman and Harlamert over, but Kramer popped up the bunt attempt and Martin made a great diving catch in front of the mound to get the first out of the bottom of the 10th, with the Pirates in a position to get completely out of the inning on a Mitch Schoenherr double play.
During Schoenherr’s at-bat, Wheelersburg caught Klosterman leaning off of second base and had the senior caught in a rundown. However, the return throw by Nick Russell to Carmichael at second base went awry and got by Marshall in shallow center field, allowing Klosterman to score the walkoff run for the Cavaliers.
However, the leadership from Wheelersburg’s seniors proved to Estep what he has already known for four years – that the seniors (Camron Parsley, Nick Marshall, Garrett Carmichael, Nathan Jones, Sam Robinson, and Dylan Miller) are winners. Winning over 100 games, two state titles, and four overall trips to Columbus over the four-year span are among the list of accomplishments that many baseball programs in the state would be envious of.
“I’m proud of 20 young men that came in here tonight and battled their rear ends off, in front of a great crowd, a great atmosphere, and I couldn’t be prouder of them.” Estep said.
“… The seniors have been a part of 106, 107 victories and less than 20 losses in their career, and that’s just outstanding. Nothing else can really be said about that. Our last three or four classes have all fell right into that boat, and it’s special. I tell the players that I don’t want them to take it for granted, the community support and the behind the scenes work that goes into making this baseball season a special one. These guys were battlers, tough all year, and I’m just extremely proud of them.”
Wheelersburg 000 000 200 0 – 2 3 3
Coldwater 000 011 000 1 – 3 7 0
Wheelersburg – Carmichael 1-5, Martin 0-3 (BB) Miller 0-3 (BB), Parsley 0-2 (2 BB), Marshall 1-3 (SAC), Roe 0-4 (SAC), Marshall 1-4 (R), Jones 1-4 (2B, RBI), May 0-3 (HBP), Robinson 0-4 (RBI), Green 0-0 (R).
Coldwater – Hoying 1-4 (R), Otten 0-3 (SAC), Bettinger 1-4 (RBI), Heyne 1-4, Muhlenkamp 2-4 (3B, R), Klosterman 0-2 (SAC, HBP, R), Harlament 2-4 (RBI), Kramer 1-4.
W – Muhlenkamp
L – Martin
Records – Wheelersburg 24-7, Coldwater 29-4.