TIFFIN — It is tournament time and as the coach, how do you tell a player, “You’re done,” when they were one of the primary reasons you are even there? That’s the decision Wynford coach Jon Amicone had to face as Royals’ pitcher Adam Hartz held a 3-1 lead going into the final inning in the Division III district final at Heidelberg on Saturday against Edison.
In the seventh, Hartz allowed a pair of singles and a walk to load the bases without recording an out before Amicone pulled him in favor of Brendan Bishop. After a hit batsman and a strikeout, respectively, he faced Matt Ortman, who cleared the bases with a double on the first pitch he saw to put Edison in the lead and propel the Chargers to a 6-3 district championship.
“They’re looking for outs there, so that definitely could have been a momentum changer with a ground ball to somebody,” Edison coach Sean Hoover said. “They were playing their defense in (in an attempt to throw out a runner heading home). Matt took the pitch the opposite way, over the second baseman’s head and into the gap to clear the bases.”
“I was just hoping that everything I’ve done in the past couple of months would pay off,” Ortman said. “It was a great feeling because you know you just had a great hit for your team for a big game-changing thing. You can’t really explain (the feeling).”
The Chargers (19-9) face Lima Central Catholic (19-8) at 2 p.m. Thursday at Elida High School. The Thunderbirds defeated Coldwater, 10-3, on Saturday.
After the once exuberant and confident Royals seemed to have the air let out of their team as they returned to the dugout, they did give it one last try in the bottom of the seventh inning.
After Mason Davis and Hartz both flew out to left field, relief pitcher Trenton Emody (2-1) plunked Taran Stuckman and Jared Butler, respectively, to put them on base and give Wynford some life. As the tying run at the plate, Brock Williamson gave a mighty swing, but he popped up to third base to end the rally.
“That’s baseball and you have to give all the credit in the world to Edison,” Amicone said. “They fought, and fought, and fought and they did what good championship teams do and they’re a championship team.
“I’m extremely proud of our kids,” he added. “They did everything they could to win the game, but unfortunately the ball just didn’t bounce our way this time.”
While Bishop gave up the crucial hit to Ortman, he stepped to the mound in a make-or-break situation with the weight of the world on his shoulders, but Amicone wanted to give Hartz as long of a leash as he could in finishing out the game.
“Adam Hartz is one of the premiere players in the area,” he said. “He’s a great pitcher and he said he wanted to go and I’m going to send him out there. He said it was his game, so I want to give him that opportunity.”
Hartz entered the seventh having already thrown 106 pitches and left after 118. In the six-plus innings, he allowed six hits and four walks, while striking out seven.
“We tried to push him one more because he was having so much success, but he got kind of wild,” Amicone said. “The first guy got a great swing on one and he walked the next batter and it got started there.”
The Royals (15-13) took leads of 1-0 and 2-1 after the first and third innings. In the opening frame, Chase Lantz reached on an error and scored on a Hartz groundout to the shortstop. Lantz put Wynford on top again in the third inning when he singled and scored on a wild pitch.
Butler provided the third run in the following inning as he doubled to left-center and scored on a Gage Roe single.
“Right now it hurts, but probably looking back in a couple of days, we can be proud of what we’ve done, even though it is so tough right after the game,” Amicone said. “We’ve had our ups and downs. The positives (from this season) were that we were able to beat Bucyrus for the first time in five years and beat state-ranked Buckeye Central last Saturday. We pride ourselves on pitching and defense, but today with the errors we made, we kind of got away from what got us to this point.”
Score by innings
Edison 010 000 5 — 6 8 1
Wynford 101 100 0 — 3 4 3
WP: Emody (2-1); LP: Hartz (2-3)
2B: Butler (W), Ortman (E).
By PATRICK MASSARA