COLUMBUS — Minster coach Mike Wiss said after the game that all he was hoping for was to get No. 2 hitter Jon Niemeyer or No. 3 hitter Alex Lehmkuhl in the batter’s box in the bottom of the seventh inning Saturday in the Division IV state championship game.
Lehmkuhl never got a chance to to go to the plate, though, because Niemeyer hit a fly ball that dropped near the line in left field just out of the reach of Russia’s Trenton Monnin, and it allowed Jared Huelsman to trot home with the winnig run in a 2-1 verdict at Huntington Park in Columbus.
It ended a dandy pitcher’s duel won by Minster sophomore lefthander Jack Heitkamp, who went the distance and allowed the Raiders just five hits, while striking out five and walking only one.
Russia lefty Daniel Kearns went the first five for the Raiders, and though he had minor control problems, he didn’t allow a hit to the Wildcats until Adam Knapke singled to right in the bottom of the fourth to drive in Bryce Schmiesing, who had walked to open the inning.
Kearns had no strikeouts in five innings, while walking three and hitting two. He allowed just two hits before turning the ball over the Jack Dapore, who worked 12/3 innings and allowed two hits, with two strikeouts and no walks.
Minster finishes the season with 19 wins in its last 21 games, and a final 25-7 record. The state championship was the school’s third in baseball since 2011.
The Raiders, meanwhile, close out the campaign with a 24-7 mark.
Russia took the lead with a run in the top of the second when County Player of the Year Hunter Cohee got the first of his two hits, a single to right. He was sacrificed to second, then scored on a base hit to left field by Evan Monnier, who was cut down trying to take second on the throw home.
Minster threatened in the third inning when Huelsman coaxed a leadoff walk and Niemeyer was hit by a pitch. Lehmkuhl stepped in and hit a shot that was headed for center field. But Kearns caught the liner, dropped it, then picked it up and threw to third in plenty of time to force Huelsman. He then got cleanup hitter Ben Stubbs to fly to center.
The Wildcats broke through on Knapke’s sikngle in the fourth, however, to tie the game up, and after both teams went down 1-2-3 in the fifth, Heitbrink worked out of a jam in the Russia sixth.
Monnin led off with a single to right, but Minster got an out when the next hitter. Dion Puthoff, put down a bunt, but was called for being out of the basepath when the throw to first hit him in the shoulder. Monnin was sent back to first base.
Dylan Cordonnier then reached on an infield single, and a fielder’s choice cut down the runner at second.
But that still left runners on first and third with the dangerous Cohee coming to the plate. He swung at the first pitch he saw, however, and lifted a harmless fly ball to center field for the final out of the inning, leaving the game still deadlocked at 1-1.
Stubbs singled to right to open the bottom of the sixth, and Russia coach Kevin Phlipot pulled Kearns in favor of the hard-throwing Dapore.
He was greeted with a successful sacrifice bunt by Bryce Schmiesing, but he then struck out Isaac Dorsten on three pitches and got Heitbrink to ground out to second to end the threat.
Russia got a runner aboard in the seventh on a two-out Minster error, but Heitbrink struck out the next batter to put Minster in position for a walk-off state title.
After Dapore struck out the first batter in the bottom of the seventh, Huelsman hit a slow roller to third that went for an infield hit. Isaac Schmiesing grounded out, with Huelsman taking second, and that was all Niemeyer needed. With first base open, Russia still chose to pitch to the first-team All-Ohioan, and he sent a fly ball to no-man’s land to give Minster a hard-earned victory and the state title.
Russia`010 000 0—1`5`0
Minster`000 100 1—2`4`1
Kearns, Dapore (6) (LP) and Drees; Heitbrink and Stubbs.
Records: Russia 24-7, Minster 25-7.