Wapakoneta Redskins senior Chace Culver (5) delivers a pitch to home plate Tuesday in a Western Buckeye League varsity baseball game against the St. Marys Roughriders at Wapakoneta High School. (Staff photo/Michelle Frank)
In a game full of missed opportunities to convert runs, the St. Marys Roughriders finally benefitted from one.
The visiting Roughriders broke their own stretch of seven straight scoreless innings with a go-ahead run in the ninth to give them a 2-1 win in nine innings Tuesday over their rival Wapakoneta Redskins in varsity baseball action at Wapakoneta High School.
Wapak and St. Marys were competing for a share of the Western Buckeye League title, as each entered the game Tuesday with a 6-2 league record.
St. Marys’ No. 9 hitter Jared Knous, with the count full, singled with one out in the top of the ninth inning. He advanced to third base on two separate wild pitches while leadoff batter Tristan Becker was at bat.
Becker walked to put runners on first and third. The next batter, Mason Gross, reached on an error, which allowed Knous to score the go-ahead run, putting the Roughriders ahead 2-1.
“It boils down to the guys putting the ball in play,” St. Marys varsity coach Jeff Dieringer said. “We got bat-on-ball contact and, fortunately, it got kicked around.”
Redskins starting pitcher Chace Culver was removed after St. Marys took the lead, exiting the game after 8 1/3 innings and 149 pitches thrown.
Kodi Morgan relieved Culver and induced to straight foul popouts to end the inning, preventing any further damage.
Going into the bottom of the ninth, Marshall Lininger was on the hill for the Roughriders.
Lininger was relieving St. Marys starter Brandon Coffey, who exited the game in the eighth inning.
Against the No. 2, 3 and 4 hitters in the Wapak lineup, Lininger executed a 1-2-3 inning to seal the win.
“It was a great high school baseball game with two evenly matched teams,” Redskins varsity coach Jason Brandt said. “I felt we had several missed opportunities. We had opportunities when we could have won the game. We had some bad, bad baserunning mistakes.”
St. Marys’ go-ahead run in the ninth was its first since the top of the first inning.
Nathan Wilker singled with two outs and scored on a double by Isaac Fitzgerald, his first of two in the game.
Culver was effective against the Roughriders’ lineup from then on, allowing zero runs and three hits until Knous’ single in the ninth.
“We were trying to do anything,” Dieringer said. “(Culver) threw really well. We tried to bunt a little bit. We weren’t as successful as we’d like to be. We tried to steal some bases. We had a lot of success with that but we couldn’t get that timely hit against him. Credit to him. He has a dynamite arm. He’s outstanding, certainly one of the top guys in our league and this part of the state.”
The Redskins tied the game at 1-1 in the third inning.
Adam Henderson ripped a double and moved to third base on a single by Chandler Kaeck. Two batters later, with two outs, Nate Kaeck singled home Henderson.
Nate Kaeck and Nick Bruns each had three hits for the Redskins.
Wapak routinely put runners on base against Coffey all game long Tuesday.
The Redskins, however, had a few blunders on the basepaths. Specifically, they failed to execute a suicide squeeze in the fifth and had double plays due to miscues in both the sixth and seventh innings.
Coffey allowed 12 hits and two walks to the Wapak lineup, but was charged just one run in 7 1/3 innings pitched.
Winning pitcher Lininger faced five hitters, allowing none to reach base, striking out one.
“It’s really big for (Lininger) to come in and get out of that jam and to pitch a solid ninth,” Dieringer said.
In the two innings St. Marys scored Tuesday, the Redskins went 1-2-3 in the bottom half.
“Hats off to St. Marys,” Brandt said. “They gave up 12 hits, and we left (12) guys on base. Their pitchers did a great job. When it mattered most, they buckled down.
“Chace did the same thing. They had opportunities, too, but Chace buckled down as well.”
The Roughriders stranded 11 runners in the game Tuesday, including at least one runner in scoring position in every inning minus the second.
Culver, who took the loss, pitched 8 1/3 innings. He allowed one earned run, six hits and five walks. Culver struck out 11 batters.
As the game transitioned into extra innings, Ottawa-Glandorf clinched the WBL title outright with a 4-0 win over Elida. O-G finished the league season at 8-1 for its first WBL title in school history.
Wapak finished 6-3 in the WBL this season.
“I couldn’t be more proud of these guys,” Brandt said. “I think a lot of people didn’t expect us to be anywhere near that coming into the season. Our three losses in the league were by one run, two in extra innings. All three league losses were the same thing; we left too many guys on base.”
With the conclusion of the league season, Brandt said Wapak’s focus is now on the postseason.
“Now is the time for the next step,” he said. “It’s 100 percent focused on the postseason. Chandler and Chace have been integral parts the last three years to this program in the tournament runs we’ve had. We’ve had other guys dress for the games. They’ve seen what has to be done.
"Now it’s time to put it all together. Yes, they were missed opportunities (Tuesday), we know we’re ready and we’ve got to turn it up now.”
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