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Bellefontaine bounces Titans to stay alive

Easton Water records 11-7 win after losing to Defiance on Saturday

COLDWATER — It is rare for a loss to produce confidence, but that is exactly what occurred for Bellefontaine’s Acme baseball team this weekend at the state tournament.


Bellefontaine’s Gauge Hayman slides past Ottawa-Glandorf’s Brad Croy at second base during Sunday’s state Acme tournament game in Coldwater. (EXAMINER PHOTO | MATT HAMMOND)

Bellefontaine Easton Water put up an admirable fight against a powerful Defiance team Saturday in a 5-0 defeat, and then jumped on Ottawa-Glandorf for nine runs in the first two innings of a loser’s bracket game Sunday.

Bellefontaine fought off a rally by O-G to advance with an 11-7 victory.

“In that Defiance game, you can’t forget who we were playing,” said Bellefontaine coach Don Hensley. “They are one of the top baseball programs in the state of Ohio. We gave up three runs with two outs in the first inning and then it was a 2-0 game the rest of the way. Our kids felt like they were right there with a great team, and after that game they felt like they could play with anybody. I think they were more confident coming into (Sunday’s) game than they were going into (Saturday’s) game.”

Bellefontaine, now 22-4, will play Anthony Wayne in an elimination game at 8 p.m. Tuesday in Coldwater.

“We are not ready to be done yet,” said Bellefontaine relief pitcher John Kirby, who recorded some huge outs in the final innings Sunday. “We feel like we can still win the whole thing. We are playing pretty well, but we still have room to improve and play better.”

Against Defiance, Bellefontaine was unable to string many threats together against standout pitcher Austin Hancock.

Hancock tossed a four-hit shutout with 11 strikeouts. Tyler Jones had two of the four hits for Bellefontaine.

Bellefontaine held a stellar Defiance lineup to seven hits, but the Bulldogs did not need much offense with the way Hancock was pitching.

Defiance took control with a three-run first inning. After two straight outs to begin the top of the first, Defiance used four straight hits and a bases-loaded walk to send three base runners home.

The Bulldogs, who have seven players on their roster who participated in the Division II state championship game in the spring, added a run in the third and another in the fifth.

Facing Hancock prepared Bellefontaine well for Sunday’s game against Ottawa-Glandorf.

Bellefontaine began the game with five straight hits and put a five spot on the scoreboard in the opening frame.

Connor Burton, Drake Roebuck and Nick Burton each had an RBI single in the first, while Daniel Boy had an RBI groundout and A.J. Gorham drove in a run with a sacrifice fly.

“We fed off of the momentum of being aggressive,” said Hensley of his team’s early offensive explosion. “We were not up there looking for walks. At times, we can be almost too patient at the plate. Today, we were aggressive with pitches in the strike zone. The kids came out with a little bit of a chip on their shoulders.”

Bellefontaine did not let up in the second inning as it plated four runs for a 9-0 cushion. Jarrod Houchin ripped an RBI triple to deep center, Roebuck had another RBI single, Boy delivered an RBI single and Bellefontaine scored another run on an error.

The Titans, who fell to Crestview in their first-round game Saturday, then began chipping away at Bellefontaine’s big lead.

O-G scored a run in the top of the second and another in the bottom of the third to make the score 9-2.

After Bellefontaine extended its lead to 11-2 in the top of the fourth with RBI singles from Boy and Jake Kennedy, the Titans countered with a run in the fourth and four in the fifth to cut Bellefontaine’s lead to four at 11-7.

Bellefontaine’s bats cooled off, too.

After piling up 12 hits during the first four innings, Bellefontaine did not have a hit over the final three frames.

“It can be tough to stay up when you get a big lead,” said Hensley. “We were not as aggressive in the later innings. We let ourselves get deeper into counts and started to let them dictate things.”

Joe Oliver started on the mound for Bellefontaine and was relieved by Nick Burton with one out in the bottom of the fifth inning.

When O-G began its half of the sixth inning with two straight walks, Hensley called on the dependable Kirby to shut down the Titans’ rally.

Kirby again did his job. He got back-to-back flyouts and a strikeout to get out of the jam in the sixth.

In the bottom of the seventh, the Titans put their first two hitters on base with an error and a single.

However, Kirby buckled down to record a flyout, a fielder’s choice groundout and a strikeout to end the game.

“What more can you say about John?,” asked Hensley. “He just comes in there and threads the needle. It isn’t anything fancy. He comes in and throws strikes.

“It all starts with his demeanor. He has the perfect demeanor to fill that role. You can’t tell if John is having the happiest day of his life or the saddest day. He is even keel and that translates well to coming into tight games.”

Houchin, Roebuck, Nick Burton and Boy each finished with two hits to fuel Bellefontaine’s offense. Boy had three RBI and Roebuck had two.

Hensley also noted the effort of catcher Zach Gilbert. Because Bellefontaine’s other two catchers were unavailable Sunday, Gilbert was called on to catch his first Senior Acme game of the summer.

“He had never caught a game in Senior Acme and all of a sudden, he is in there in a state tournament game. I was impressed with the way he came out and did what we needed him to do,” said Hensley. “It seems like every player on this team has their own role, and Zach filled his role well today.”

Bellefontaine will now see an Anthony Wayne team it faced earlier in the summer. Bellefontaine split with Anthony Wayne in a pair of games in June.

Anthony Wayne defeated Vandalia-Butler 6-4 on Saturday, but fell to Lima Shawnee 5-4 in eight innings Sunday.

Shawnee and Defiance are the lone teams left in the winner’s bracket. They face each other at 6 p.m. Wednesday for a berth in Saturday’s championship game.

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