Sometimes the competition beats you. At other times you can’t get out of your own way.
The East Holmes Junior Little League team felt a bit of both recently when it was eliminated from the Ohio State Junior Little League baseball tournament, where the Hawks went 2-2 and finished fourth.
The East Holmes Junior Little League 14U baseball team won a District 4 championship to qualify for the state tournament in Painesville, Ohio.
In winning its district, the Hawks had to get through a best-of-three play-off series with Dover.
East Holmes started off on the right foot with an 8-3 win on Monday, July 9, and two nights later the Hawks emerged victorious with an 8-4 victory to advance to the state tournament in Painesville on Saturday, July 21.
“I thought we played really well in the district games,” East Holmes head coach Tim Yoder said.
The competition picked up at the state tournament, although Yoder said both his staff and his team felt they were in the mix to challenge for a state title.
“I think we all felt that we had a shot,” Yoder said. “Even after we were done, we walked away from state thinking that with a few little things here or there we could have been playing for a title. We just didn’t play well at all in our losses, and we did some things that were very uncharacteristic of us.”
At the state tournament East Holmes kick-started their offense against Painesville and never let off the gas, pouring it on in a 16-1 victory where the team’s top-two hitters in the order, Nolan Yoder and Jack Hershberger, set the tone for the way they would play throughout the week.
“Both of those guys really swung the bat well,” Yoder said.
Isaac Yoder would pick up the victory for the Hawks on the mound as coach Yoder used a smattering of pitchers to keep everyone available for future games.
The Hawks then fell 8-7 to a Boardman team that many felt would be one of the teams vying for a championship. Yoder said they all felt they were the better team, but he said you have to go prove that on the field, and that was not the case in the tough extra-inning loss.
Yoder said what really put the sting into that loss was the way the game panned out in the final two innings.
“We had runners on second and third with less than two outs in both of those innings and left them stranded,” Yoder said. “That was extremely frustrating, especially since we had the middle of our line-up up. If we win that game, we move into the finals of the winner’s bracket, and our pitching is set up for the rest of the tournament. We would have had everyone available.”
Instead the loss dropped East Holmes into the loser’s bracket, where they thumped Rock Hill 8-3 before facing another talented team in Loveland.
In the win over Rock Hill, the Hawks saw the return of Tony Yoder, who was sick for the first two games. Yoder took the mound and threw well and provided a nice spark for the team. Yoder twirled 4 and one-third innings of no-hit relief to pick up the win.
In the next contest Loveland broke open a 1-1 tie in the second inning with a three-spot and never looked back.
The Loveland game was another one the Hawks would love to have back. Coach Yoder said his usually very reliable infield struggled to make plays the entire game, and the Hawks fell behind 10-2 before inching closer and eventually dropping the game 10-4, bouncing them from the tournament.
“That Loveland team was pretty good, but we probably committed eight errors in the game, and you can’t give away outs like that and expect to win,” Yoder said. “This team was really good defensively all summer, but we just played plain ugly. It was one of those games that nothing went right once we started to struggle.”
Yoder felt that between Loveland, Rock Hill and Boardman, his Hawks were right there as equals. However, sometimes things don’t pan out the way a team wants them to, and the Hawks proved to create their own undoing in the losses.
“This group of 13- and 14-year-olds and the 12Us are pretty strong, and we are going to see some really good teams coming out of Hiland in the future,” Yoder said of the Hiland baseball program. “It’s a good baseball group of fundamentally sound kids who enjoy the game.”
Loveland would go on to defeat Boardman 13-6 in the loser’s bracket final, earning the right to face winner’s bracket final champion Maumee in the championship game, where Maumee took care of business and qualified for the Central Regional tournament in Indiana.
Team members for the East Holmes Hawks Junior Little League team included Dylan Weaver, Isaac Yoder, Nolan Yoder, Alec Weaver, Will Schlabach, Tony Yoder, Grant Miller, Jack Hershberger, Braden Kaufman and Jordan Wengerd. Coaches included Tim Yoder, Jerry Yoder and Toby Miller.