After feeling the elation of winning a Major Little League 12U district title for the first time in more than a decade, the East Holmes Little League team had plenty of reason to celebrate and bask in the afterglow of a district title.
One week later the Hawks were feeling the sting of agonizing defeat, where they fell not once but twice in extra innings at the state tournament in North Canton to bow out, having given a tremendous effort.
East Holmes won its first game over Kenton in decisive fashion, hammering out a 10-0 victory, but the Hawks ran into some stiffer competition, and despite playing well for the majority of the time, they still went home unsatisfied.
The first agonizing extra-inning loss came on Tuesday, July 24 when the Hawks squared off with a talented New Albany team.
This one proved to be an excellent pitcher’s duel as both teams sent some strong pitching to the mound. Both coaches tried valiantly to keep all of their pitching alive for later in the tournament by keeping their pitchers under 30 pitches, and hits came at a premium.
East Holmes would get out to a 2-1 lead on a Sammy Detweiler single, and it would maintain that lead through the fourth inning. The Hawks had a chance to extend the lead on Luke Hershberger’s fifth-inning double, but he would be stranded.
East Holmes ace Brady Yoder had come on in the fifth and breezed through the inning, but in the sixth inning he served up an 0-2 pitch to Ian Booth, and Booth delivered it over the wall in center for a game-tying home run.
East Holmes had a shot at a walk-off win in the bottom of the sixth when Detweiler walked with one out and stole second base. However, New Albany’s Ben Liebold was up to the task and retired the next two hitters on strikeouts to end the threat and send the game to extra innings.
Yoder would get a strikeout, but an error opened the door for New Albany. With Yoder having reached the pitch limit that would allow him to come back on one day’s rest, head coach Jake Coblentz called on Cody Yoder. A second Hawks error and a Max Berger RBI single gave New Albany a 3-2 lead. Cody Yoder would work out of the inning by inducing a pop out and a ground out, but the Hawks were down to their final at-bat in hopes of winning or at least extending the game.
Connor Beachy grounded out to start the inning, and Garrett Givens came on in relief for New Albany. Cody Yoder greeted home with a single, and after he advanced to second on a wild pitch, Hershberger lashed a liner to center that was caught for out number two. Brady Yoder then drilled a shot up the middle for a single, but it was hit so hard that it reached the center fielder quickly. The center fielder rifled a throw in toward the mound, where it was cut off because coach Coblentz held up Cody Yoder at third base. However, thinking the throw was going home, Brady Yoder took off for second base, where he was cut down on a close play that ended the game and sent East Holmes into the loser’s bracket.
In the contest Monty Coblentz continued his torrid pace with a pair of hits with Hiland managing seven hits while New Albany cranked out 10.
If that one hurt, the Hawks were about to experience real heartache. Facing a win-or-go-home situation, the Hawks took on a hard-hitting Galion team, and for awhile it didn’t look good.
Finn Schneider took the mound to start the game for East Holmes and ripped through the first inning. Galion starter Landon Campbell followed suit.
Galion threatened quickly in the second inning, putting runners on second and third with nobody out, but Schneider came through. A grounder to third saw Brady Yoder fire home to get the out, and after inducing an easy pop-up, Schneider recorded a monster strikeout to somehow escape unscathed.
East Holmes also threatened in the bottom of the inning when Coblentz and Detweiler singled, but nothing came of that as Campbell also worked out of trouble.
Then came the third inning when Galion struck for four runs. Schneider allowed back-to-back singles and was replaced by Alex Yoder. With one out Derek Prosser singled home a run. The bases were loaded with a walk, and after a wild pitch allowed a run, Carter Weaver and Trevor Vogt singled home runs three and four.
East Holmes was facing a tall task, but an inning later it got all of those four runs back and more.
With Vogt on to pitch, Brady Yoder greeted him with a single. Collin Coblentz popped out, but the scorching-hot Monty Coblentz roped a single to left. Detweiler walked, and all the runners moved up a base on a wild pitch to make it 4-1. Alex Yoder then rifled a two-run single to right to trim East Holmes’ deficit to one run, and after Caden Coblentz drew a walk, Conner Beachy reached base on a fielder’s choice that left runners on the corners with two outs. Cody Yoder then ripped a double to center that ticked off the center fielder’s glove and went under the fence. It was initially ruled a triple that gave East Holmes a 5-4 lead, but the umpires met and sent Yoder back to second and Beachy back to third, and the game was tied at 4-4.
East Holmes untied it when Coblentz raced home on a wild pitch, and moments later Hershberger hammered an RBI single to put East Holmes ahead 6-4.
Cody Yoder came on to throw the fifth inning and was promptly greeted by a Carson Frankhouse single before Prosser launched a long home run to tie the game at 6-all.
Two more singles put New Albany in great position to take the lead, but after a trip to the mound from coach Coblentz, Cody Yoder dug in, retiring the next three batters on a pop out, a sacrifice bunt and a huge strikeout to leave two runners stranded in scoring position.
Prosser came on to throw for New Albany in the bottom of the fifth, and East Holmes attacked quickly with Beachy reaching on an error and Detweiler lacing a one-out single. Like Cody Yoder before him, Prosser showed plenty of guts, escaping on a strikeout and a ground out to send the game to the sixth inning tied.
New Albany threatened to take the lead again in the sixth. Hershberger made a nice running catch for the first out, but a single and an error put two runners on for New Albany. Prosser’s fly out to right moved both runners up a base, but Cody Yoder again worked out of trouble by inducing Campbell to ground out to third.
Beachy’s single gave East Holmes a chance to ignite a game-winning rally, but the Hawks went down easily from there, sending the game into extra innings.
Both pitchers sailed through the seventh with ease. Cody Yoder worked around an error in the eighth, and East Holmes had a golden opportunity slip through their fingers in the bottom of the inning. Conner Coblentz singled, then Conner Beachy laced a shot to center, but Vogt made a diving catch and doubled up Coblentz. That turned out to be a huge play because Cody Yoder was up next, and he hit a ball that banged off the center-field fence just inches from being a home run. Prosser intentionally walked Hershberger before getting Brady Yoder on a ground ball to shortstop to end the threat.
On to the ninth the two hopefuls went, and Cody Yoder delivered a perfect inning, setting the stage for another East Holmes walk-off win.
With one out Monty Coblentz singled, and after Detweiler grounded out, Schneider reached on an error. Caden Coblentz worked a walk after fouling off four strike-two pitches, but Conner Beachy grounded out to short to send the game into the 10th inning.
After throwing superbly after giving up four hits to start his stint, Cody Yoder was finally tiring. Vogt and Trevor Leach started the 10th inning with singles, but he responded with a strikeout. That marked the end of his day as he had reached his pitch count, going five great innings to give his team a chance to win. On came Caden Coblentz, who threw a wild pitch to advance both runners. A pair of wild pitches and a single later and East Holmes was trailing 9-6 heading into their half of the 10th.
East Holmes was not about to go down without a fight. Cody Yoder reached on an error, but Hershberger slammed a shot up the middle that was turned into a double play. Down to their final out, East Holmes kept battling. Brady Yoder raked a double and Collin Coblentz reached on an infield single on a slow roller to short that saw Brady Yoder stay put. Monty Coblentz then smacked an RBI single to make it 9-7 and bring the winning run to the plate. However, Detweiler hit a sharp grounder to second base that was fielded cleanly, and that spelled the end of the game and the tournament for East Holmes.
Considering no East Holmes team had made the state tournament for a dozen years, it was a terrific effort from a team that exhibited a lot of fundamentals, pitching and team play in its run.