The most notable thing about Chaminade Julienne pitcher Nick Wissman? That wouldn’t be his go-to breaking ball, take-charge demeanor or lethal bat. How about a massive rip on the side of his Eagles’ pants?
“It was the first game of the year I slid,” the senior recalled. “It was a little hole, but every time I slid after that it got bigger and bigger. We were doing pretty good. I wasn’t going to stitch it up the way we were going.”
Now a gaping hole, the tear reflects CJ’s success since that March opener.
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CJ (26-2) will take a 22-game win streak into Sunday’s Division II state championship against Gates Mills Gilmour Academy (25-6) at Canal Park. CJ, the defending D-II state champ, advanced with a big assist from Wissman, who was masterful in a 7-1 defeat of Van Wert in a D-II state semifinal on Saturday afternoon. Gilmour advanced with a 2-0 defeat of St. Clairsville in Saturday’s D-II semifinal opener.
Wissman went the distance, allowing just two hits and walking none. He retired the final 20 batters, starting with the first of his nine strikeouts to end a troublesome first inning. Van Wert scored its only run in the first and had the bases loaded with one out. Then Wissman took over.
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He needed 20 pitches to get through the first inning and just 58 more over the final six. A preferred walk-on to the University of Dayton, Wissman also was the winning pitcher in CJ’s defeat of Wapakoneta to win the 2018 D-II state title at Huntington Park in Columbus.
Sebastian Gongora had two hits and three RBIs to lead CJ’s offense. He’ll be the starting pitcher in Sunday’s title game. It will be CJ’s third consecutive appearance in the D-II state championship. The Eagles were defeated by Tallmadge in 2017.
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“It’s unbelievable,” said CJ coach Mike Barhorst, who will coach his final Eagles game on Sunday. “We had a lot of lean years in the beginning. For the success we’ve had, it’s a testament to these guys. I’ve got the hardest-working guys and they’ve got a will to win. That’s just how they are.”
Wissman’s pitching gem was the norm in the first appearance of the state final fours at the home of the Akron RubberDucks, the Double-A minor-league affiliate of the Cleveland Indians. Four of the first five semifinals were shutouts.
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Van Wert (27-3) had a 19-game win streak snapped. It was the first state final four appearance by the Cougars, one of the few Western Buckeye League teams to break the baseball grip by league rival Defiance.
“Give them a lot of credit,” Van Wert coach Charlie Witten said. “They’re defending state champion for a reason. They took our best shot and went with it.”
CJ, then Chaminade, also won the Class AA (big school) state title in 1970.
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“This is what we’ve worked for all year,” Wissman said. “Ever since we dog-piled at Huntington last year, we knew we had the team to come back. To be able to go at it for another state title, it doesn’t get any better than that.”
Coldwater (25-6) played Cincinnati Roger Bacon (18-9) in a D-III state semifinal also Saturday. Springboro (D-I) and Minster (D-IV) both lost state semifinals on Friday.
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