Garaway pitcher Josh Yoder left little doubt as to who was in command of the Div. III sectional baseball tilt between Garaway and visiting Coshocton on Saturday, May 11 on The Hill in Sugarcreek.
Yoder dominated from pitch one through the final out, never allowing a Redskins batter to cross home plate in a 4-0 Garaway victory.
“From the first time I looked at him this morning, he had that look in his eye, and I knew it was going to be a great day for him,” Garaway coach Justin Elmore said. “He just had that look like he wanted the ball, and he took it and went out and threw a tremendous game.”
Garaway would get all the runs it would need in the first inning with a three-spot that gave starting pitcher Josh Yoder some cushion to relax and pitch. Austin Fearon started things with a walk, and Yoder reached on a bunt single. After a wild pitch, Peyton Miller scorched a deep drive to left that went for a two-run double. After a couple of strike-outs, Kory Stress made sure Miller didn’t get stranded, slamming a line-shot single to left to plate the third run.
Elmore said he had preached to his kids about getting out in front early, and they heeded that advice. Elmore said he felt that helped relax his team in the field. Coshocton head coach Wayne Prevatt said the one thing they knew they couldn’t afford was to fall behind early.
“My take was that if we could keep it close, we could get into their second-tier pitcher,” Prevatt said. “Unfortunately we fell behind early, and their kid was sensational today.”
Yoder was automatic through three innings, facing the minimum of nine batters. Then in the fourth inning came what was perhaps the biggest defensive play of the game. After a one-out single and a throwing error put Nathan Fauver on second base, Yoder recorded a big strike-out before Zach Crown ripped a single to center. Fearon charged hard and came up throwing, delivering a strike to home plate where Stress applied the tag on Fauver on a sensational play, prompting Yoder to give his center-fielder a huge hug in the dugout afterward.
“That was a big play, a key play,” Yoder said. “That just really got me going. I knew if I threw strikes, my defense would make plays, but that was huge.”
Elmore reiterated to his players before the game that keeping lightning-fast lead-off hitter Drew Kittell off the base paths was paramount. Yoder set the table for that to happen, and his teammates responded, the toughest out being on a nice play by shortstop Peyton Miller on a play in the hole in the sixth where he nipped a frustrated Kittell at first.
Kittell wasn’t the only Redskins players having issues trying to solve Yoder. The feisty righty delivered the goods in this one, pitching what Elmore said was a terrific effort.
“That was the best version of Josh Yoder there is,” Elmore said. “He was in complete control. He wasn’t out there trying to throw everything past the hitters. He was moving the ball around and mixing up his pitches and keeping them off-balance. I thought Kory Stress did an amazing job behind the plate in calling the game too. It was exactly what you want from your battery.”
While Yoder was shutting out the Redskins, Coshocton hurler Logan Desender was busy shutting down the Pirates after a big first inning.
Desender danced in and out of trouble in several innings, but for the most part he gave his team every opportunity to come back and pull out a victory. Garaway threatened in the fourth inning when Jace Briggs walked and Brock Keim singled him to second with nobody out. However, that rally stalled as quickly as it had started.
“That has been Logan all season. He has just battled and fought for everything,” Prevatt said. “He’s just a competitor, and he was upset with himself over that first inning, but he really settled in nicely. He gave us everything he had.”
The fifth inning could have been huge for Garaway, but again Desender avoided big trouble. With one out Dylan Hershberger and Colson Starner raked back-to-back singles. After Stress lined out on a great play by Mason at short, Briggs delivered a run-scoring single to make it 4-0. Brock Keim would add a single to load the bases, but Matt Mullen lined out to end the frame.
Then came some drama in the seventh when Yoder began to tire and Coshocton put up its best effort to produce something in the top of its final at-bat. Yoder got a quick out but then hit Desender with a pitch. Griffin Mason then lined a single to right, and after a fly out, Zach Jennings laced a single to left to load the bases, prompting a trip to the mound by Elmore. Garaway had Fearon warmed up and waiting in the wings, but when Elmore made his trip to the mound, everyone out there knew this was going to be Yoder’s game to finish.
“You’ve got to be ready for anything, but no, Josh got us to where we were, and I was going to let him finish unless something dramatic happened,” Elmore said. “I’m proud of the way he executed. He went into the final inning on just 67 pitches, so he was in great shape to finish it.”
“I was starting to get a little tired, but there was no way I was coming out of the game at that point,” Yoder said.
He reached back, and on a 2-2 pitch, he induced a fly out to Fearon in center to end the game and advance the Pirates (14-9) to the sectional final, where they will face IVC South foe Ridgewood.
Yoder ended up throwing a complete-game three-hitter, striking out just three but walking just a pair as he kept the bases relatively Redskin-free most of the day. Desender went six innings, allowing nine hits, striking out five and walking a pair. Yoder and Keim each recorded a pair of hits in Garaway’s nine-hit attack.
For a team that began the season 0-11, the Redskins made some major strides late and proved to be a capable foil for the Pirates.
“I’m proud of these kids because they never quit, and they gave a heck of a team in Garaway a great game today,” Prevatt said.
For Elmore it was a perfect way to start the tournament.
“This is the way you want to be playing baseball at the end of the season,” Elmore said of his team. “We played well in all phases. We could have used a timely hit or two, but overall we played strong defensively, and Josh gave us a great effort on the mound.”