Coshocton baseball coach Scott Loomis has a script that has worked to the tune of 20-7 this season, and he isn’t about to try to alter it now.
Loomis’ Redskins went back to the old tried-and-true again in their district semifinal tilt with Garaway Monday, May 16 at West Holmes High School, and the team left Millersburg with a 2-1 win in a 10-inning thriller that was as exciting as it sounded.
“Great pitching and great defense, that has described our season,” said Loomis. That has been our season. We don’t always hit as well as we want, but it seems like we come up with timely hits when we need them.”
Three key moments in the contest proved to be Garaway’s undoing.
The first came in the early going when the Pirates stranded five runners on base, three in scoring position, off of Coshocton starter Alex McPeak. That proved to be lethal because that opened the door for Loomis to bring in hard-throwing righty Talon Babcock, who absolutely baffled Garaway’s hitters.
“We had some great opportunities to make something happen early, and we didn’t get it done,” said Garaway skipper Justin Elmore.
Garaway was able to nick McPeak for a run in the third, when Micah VanFossen doubled to center, went to third on Austin miller’s bunt single and scored on a Dallas Foster fly out to deep center.
As far as Loomis was concerned, McPeak did exactly what he had to do in getting the Redskins through four with just the one run.
“That was exacrly what we needed from Alex,” said Loomis. “Talon didn’t have enough rest to go the distance, and Alex pitched an excellent game to get us to Talon.”
Then there was the unlucky moment in the fourth when Coshocton scored to tie the game. Austin Miller threw a gem for eight innings for the Pirates, but in the fourth her gave up a walk and a single with one out. Hunter Haas then lifted a shallow fly right down the right field line, where B.J. Schwartz made an impressive running catch while flying into foul grounds. In one swift motion, he whirled and fired a strike to third base, where tanner Petitte was waiting on what would be a close play. However, as luck would have it, the ball clipped the cut of the infield, and took a crazy bounce high over Petitte’s head, allowing Andrew Mason to scamper home.
“In hindsight, maybe we shouldn’t have thrown that ball to third base, but it was B.J. trying to be aggressive and make a play,” said Elmore. We have preached all season long that we want these guys to make plays, and that was what he was trying to do. He made a great play. It was just an unlucky bounce.”
What made it sting even worse was Miller struck out the ensuing batter, stranding the other base runner at third base.
After the fourth, hitting became a scarcity for both clubs.
Miller had settled into a groove, and cruised through the next four innings unscathed.
Meanwhile, Babcock, Coshocton’s ace, came into the game and stymied Garaway. He threw the final six innings, facing just two hitters over the minimum, one of those drawing an intentional pass in the 10th.
Miller threw the first eight, and gave Garaway every possible chance to succeed.
“Austin threw a heck of a game, and gave us eight incredible innings on the mound,” said Elmore. “We couldn’t ask more from him.”
However, the Redskins started hitting reliever trey Hershberger in the ninth. Coshocton loaded the bases with one out, bringing the Pirates infield in. Logan Hough then fifled a liner to the left of second baseman Quinn Miller, who simple caught the ball on the run and kept on running all the way to first base, where the doubled off the runner who was on the move, ending the threat.
The Pirates were not so fortunate in the 10th.
Derek Bowman, who was hitting .120 on the season, began the inning with a single. Lead-off man Conner Rohrig then was asked to bunt, failed to get one down, then hit a single through the left side to put runners on second and third.
“That’s kind of the way baseball is sometimes,” said Loomis of the failed bunt turning into a key single.
Elmore chose to walk the next hitter to load the bases and bring up Mason. The large lefty swatted a ball deep to right-center, easily allowing Bowman to jog home with the winning run.
“I felt pretty good with three and four coming up there, and Mason is the kid we want up there in that key situation,” said Loomis. “I knew he was going to hit something hard to the outfield. I told (Bowman) ‘make sure you say skins before you tag up and go,’ because we didn’t want there to ne any controversy.”
With four legitimate starters on the mound, Loomis said he believes his team has the firepower to survive a 10-inning affair, this on the heels of a nine-inning tournament win earlier.
Perhaps just as important is that the Redskins have played a tone of low-scoring, close baseball games this season.
“We keep battling and battling, and finding ways to win,” said Loomis. “It’s a recipe that has won us 20 games this year, so these guys are pretty confident. We have encountered a lot of close baseball, and that makes you better when you’re in those kinds of situations in tournament play.”
For Elmore, whose Pirates came on late in the year, a season of getting great hitting while struggling in the field and on the mound at times this season was completely turned upside down in this one.
“We’ve been good offensively, but tonight we didn’t produce when we needed to,” said Elmore. “At the same time, Austin threw a gem and our defense made some huge plays to get us out of jams. We knew this could well be a game just like this, and both teams played a great baseball game. I couldn’t be more proud of these kids for the effort they gave.”
It was one of those games that, as a baseball fan, anyone would love to watch. Anyone, that is, whose team doesn’t come out on the losing end.