The Minster High School baseball team’s offense has been hitting on all cylinders the last two weeks.
In its biggest moment so far this season, the Wildcats used what’s kept them winning games all season — pitching and defense.
Minster scored the game’s lone run on a throwing error in the second inning and held on to beat Cincinnati Christian 1-0 in a Division IV regional fina Sunday at Coldwater’s Veterans Field.
Wildcats pitchers Jack Heitbrink and Ethan Lehmkuhl combined for a one-hitter in the victory.
“I’m going to go back to a basketball analogy that we use with our basketball team,” Minster coach Mike Wiss said. “Offense comes and goes, but defense can never leave you. I’m going to add defense and pitching can never leave you.”
With the win, Minster (22-7) advances to the state tournament for the fifth time since 2003 and second time in the last three years. The Wildcats won the state championship in 2017.
Cincinnati Christian finished 17-6, falling in the regional final for the second straight season.
Minster’s Trent Roetgerman and Jacob Niemayer each singled in the second inning to give the Wildcats runners at second and third with one out. Mike Ketner hit a ground ball to Cougars shortstop Alex Johnson, who got the force out at second base, but overthrew first trying to turn the double play. Roetgerman scored from second base to give Minster the 1-0 lead it would never relinquish.
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“To say that one run scored on a double play ball that was thrown away,” Wiss said. “Baseball is weird like that some times. We’ve all seen it.”
Minster will play Jeromesville Hillsdale in a D-IV state semifinal at 4 p.m. Friday at Akron’s Canal Park. The other D-IV semifinal between Antwerp and Toronto will follow at 7 p.m.. The state championship game is scheduled for 1 p.m. on Sunday in Akron.
The regional tournament was originally scheduled for Springfield’s Carleton Davidson Stadium on Thursday and Friday, but it was moved to Coldwater on Saturday after both days were postponed due to inclement weather.
CCS threatened in each of the first four innings, but couldn’t find the base hit it needed, leaving nine runners on base. The Cougars chased Minster starter Heitbrink in the third inning, but Wildcats No. 3 pitcher Lehmkuhl was stellar in relief, pitching 4⅔ scoreless innings with three strikeouts.
“With as many complete games as we’ve had, you don’t get that No. 3 guy to get quality innings,” Wiss said. “I said at the banquet last week that Ethan Lehmkuhl was going to be in a big moment here yet before this is all done. What a big moment. He did an outstanding job.”
In the fifth, Minster’s Ketner was hit by a pitch to start the inning and moved to second base on a base hit by Noah Enneking. Both runners advanced on a passed ball and the Cougars intentionally walked Heitbrink to load the bases with one out. Cougars pitcher Bryce Jungkunz struck out Minster’s August Boehnlein and Austin Brown to end the threat.
“Today we were out in front a little bit, off the front foot, our head was coming off contact,” Wiss said. “Give credit to them. It was a well-played game by Cincinnati Christian. But I’m proud of my guys as I think everybody is at this time when you have that kind of victory.”
After scouting Minster in its regional semifinal against Mechanicsburg, Cincinnati Christian coach Curtus Moak opted to start Jungkunz, who specializes in throwing off-speed pitches for strikes, especially behind in the count. He pitched a complete game, allowing six hits and one unearned run, keeping the Wildcats off-balance the entire game.
“I assumed it would mess with them a little bit,” Moak said. “The strategy worked perfectly. We just couldn’t get the runs.”
The Cougars nearly tied the game in the sixth. Tim Carangi advanced to first on a throwing error by Minster’s Ketner and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Caden Glenn. Conner Ploetz followed with a ground ball to second base, moving Carangi to third, but Mitchell Smith flew out to right field to end the threat.
CCS got its first hit of the game in the seventh inning on a single by Trevor Allen, but stranded runners at first and second to end the game. Last year, the Cougars fell to Fort Loramie 8-7, one game shy of the state tournament.
Moak announced earlier this spring it would be his last season as head coach after four years in charge of the program.
“At this point, I think the program is in a good place,” he said. “It’s established and broke history two years in a row. I look forward to seeing what else they can do.”
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