A tough Maumee team presented a huge challenge for Hiland in game two of the Hawks’ Little League Senior League state tournament run to the state championship game.
In its bid for a ninth straight state title in the 15 to 16-year-old division, the Hawks again fell behind before rallying for a mesmerizing 3-2 win.
With Kobe Shetler on the mound, Hiland escaped a bases-loaded jam in the first inning, just as it had done in the first two innings of its opening 8-4 victory over Mason. The big at-bat came when Shetler recorded a huge strikeout to end the inning.
However, as was the case in their opener, the Hawks bats couldn’t get going early, and in the second inning Maumee took a 1-0 lead off of Shetler. It could have been worse, but Hiland flashed the golden defense it has been known for at state, and it came in the form of right fielder Brett Miller. With Hiland trailing 1-0 and the bases loaded, Miller tracked down a fly ball to right and sent a pea to catcher Ryan Hershberger, who grabbed the perfectly thrown one-hopper and tagged out the runner trying to score from third base to end the inning.
Hiland would finally work across a run to tie the game in the bottom of the fourth inning. With two outs Logan Miller and Shelter slammed back-to-back singles, and coach Mike Yoder turned to Michael Shoup in a key spot to pinch hit for Brett Miller. Shoup made that move pay off by singling to center to knot things up at one.
Shetler threw a strong fifth, and the Hawks went back to work in the bottom and took a 3-1 lead. Tyler Kline singled sharply to left, and with one out Ryan Hershberger reached on an error. Kevin Borntrager forced Hershberger at second, but Ricky Miller came through with a big hit to give the Hawks a 3-1 lead.
Tyler Kline came on to throw the sixth and promptly found himself in a jam. A walk and a single put runners on the corner, but Hershberger cut down a would-be base theft at second for the first out. Logan Miller then misplayed a ball in center and allowed a run to make it 3-2. Kline recorded a strikeout, and after loading the bases, he induced a ground out to short to end the threat.
After Hiland failed to score in the bottom of the sixth, Maumee had one last chance to knot things up. Kline got a strikeout but walked the next hitter, bringing Andy Miller on to try to slam the door once again.
Andy Miller’s first pitch was in the dirt, but Hershberger blocked it, pounded on it quickly and fired a strike to second base to cut down the base runner trying to advance. Andy Miller then got a fly out to Logan Miller in deep left to end the game as Hiland advanced to the winner’s bracket final.
Shetler went five innings, allowing one run on three hits while striking out six and walking five. Andy Miller came on to record the final two outs to record the save. Maumee’s Devin Schavone deserved better in picking up the loss. He scattered nine hits over six innings with just one of the three runs he allowed being earned. He struck out four and walked one. Ricky Miller, Andy Miller and Kline all recorded a pair of hits for Hiland.