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Down, but not out

Bellefontaine erases early deficit, beats AW to continue its run at state Acme tourney

BellBrunner

ABOVE: Bellefontaine pitcher Kyle Brunner reacts after getting the last out in the seventh inning Tuesday in Coldwater. FRONT PAGE PHOTO: Bellefontaine’s Tyler Jones throws a pitch during Tuesday’s Acme state tournament game against Anthony Wayne in Coldwater. (EXAMINER PHOTOS | MATT HAMMOND)

COLDWATER — Bellefontaine’s Acme baseball team simply refuses to let its season come to an end.

The outlook was bleak after four innings here Tuesday night at the state tournament. But as it has done throughout the postseason, Bellefontaine Easton Water continued to grind away until it found a spark.

Anthony Wayne scored three runs in the top of the first inning and Bellefontaine did not have a hit until the bottom of the fourth.

The tide turned in the bottom of the fifth, though, as Bellefontaine broke through for four runs and went on to take a 5-4 victory in a loser’s bracket contest.

“We never feel like we are out of a game, and that starts at the top with Coach (Don) Hensley, Coach (Art) Caudill and Coach (Toby) Smith,” said Bellefontaine’s Jarrod Houchin, who drove in the tying run in the fifth inning. “They don’t let us get down on ourselves.”

Bellefontaine (23-4) plays Coldwater at 8 p.m. tonight in another elimination game. If Bellefontaine wins, it will advance to Friday’s loser’s bracket final.

“This is what happens when you assemble a group of athletes that play with a never-say-die attitude,” said Hensley. “They don’t panic when they get behind.”

The Generals collected three hits and took advantage of two walks to plate three runs in the opening frame.

Meanwhile, Bellefontaine’s offense was handcuffed early on by Anthony Wayne right-hander Aaron Stark.

Easton Water managed only one base runner through the first three innings.

Connor Burton’s one-out single in the fourth put the first mark under the hit column for Bellefontaine.

A walk and hit by pitch later in the fourth allowed Bellefontaine to load the bases with two outs, but a lineout ended the threat.

Bellefontaine jumped all over Stark in the fifth.

Daniel Boy began the inning with a walk and Jordan Baughman followed with a single to right.

After a strikeout, Gauge Hayman lined an RBI single to right to drive home Bellefontaine’s first run.

Connor Burton then delivered an RBI single to make the score 3-2. Houchin came up next and served a hit into right field that tied the game at 3-3.

“That was a tremendous piece of hitting by Jarrod,” said Hensley. “He let the ball get deep and he shot it into right field.”

Bellefontaine went on to score another run in the fourth on an Anthony Wayne error for a 4-3 advantage.

Easton Water tacked on an insurance run in the top of the sixth.

Bellefontaine was kept in the game by the pitching of Tyler Jones. He was called on to relieve starter John Kirby to begin the third inning.

Jones allowed only three hits and struck out three without walking a batter in four plus innings of work.

“I just tried to come in and throw strikes,” said Jones. “I tried to pitch to contact and allow my defense to do its job.”

Anthony Wayne began the top of the seventh with a pair of singles, prompting a call to the bullpen.

Kyle Brunner, who started Saturday’s first-round game against Defiance, was brought on to put out the fire.

The Generals’ rally continued as the first hitter to face Brunner laid down a bunt. Brunner threw to third base, but the runner was called safe. That loaded the bases with no outs.

Luck appeared to be on Anthony Wayne’s side as the next batter hit a weak ground ball toward third that nobody could get to. The RBI infield single allowed the Generals to climb within a run at 5-4.

Momentum then swung drastically back to Bellefontaine’s side as it came up with a huge defensive play.

Ryan Meyers hit a comebacker to Brunner, who fired to catcher Baughman for the force out at home.

Baughman then turned and threw a dart to first base to get Meyers there for a double play.

With runners now on second and third and two outs, Brunner induced a groundout to send Bellefontaine to the next round.

“Our defense came up with two huge double plays late in the game,” said Hensley. “Our guys up the middle turned a heck of a double play in the sixth to get out of a jam and Kyle did exactly what he was supposed to do on that double play in the seventh. He did not hesitate. He delivered the ball right away to Jordan and Jordan made a nice throw to first.”

After giving up three hits in the opening inning, Bellefontaine pitching allowed four the rest of the way.

“Tyler did everything you could have possibly asked for,” said Hensley. “He located well, he stayed ahead in the count and he defended his position.”

Offensively, Connor Burton finished with three hits to lead the way for Easton Water.

Coldwater advanced to tonight’s game with a 2-0 win over Crestview on Tuesday.

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