Coshocton B-Dry faced Kaufman Realty for all the marbles. It seemed appropriate that these two Tuscarawas County Class A baseball teams would meet in the finals on Aug. 9. The season seemed to point to the collision of Class A’s top two squads, and the finals did not disappoint.
In the end Kaufman showed why it won the regular-season crown by pulling out a 9-5 title championship win that continues a long run of success for the Sugarcreek-based team.
“I’m proud of our guys,” Kaufman coach Clinton Yoder said. “B-Dry is a really good baseball team, and they have played us tough all year. The year ended like we were hoping it would, but it was rough getting there.”
Coshocton B-Dry came into the finals needing to get two wins against the winner’s bracket champs, but coming off of a 10-inning affair in the winner’s bracket final versus Kaufman gave them plenty of hope and inspiration.
B-Dry also knew it had to win one game before even considering game two, so the two teams toed the rubber and went at it in a game that went back and forth before Kaufman took command late in an inning that saw them plate four runs, courtesy of just two hits.
B-Dry jumped on Kaufman starter Jordan Knight in the first with a single tally. Caleb Tingle walked, Michael Adams singled him to second, and after Tingle was forced at third on a nice play by KR catcher Hayden Mobley, Tyler Ramsay stroked a single to score Adams.
Kaufman responded with a two-spot in the second, getting to B-Dry starter Braeden Smith early. With one out Brandt Miller singled, and Richie Mast followed with a double to the gap in right-center. Mobley then delivered with a two-strike base hit up the middle to put Kaufman ahead 2-1.
Neither team produced a run in the second inning, but B-Dry managed to score twice in the third. Tingle and TJ Grove singled, and then with two outs Hunter Westlake slammed a ball off the wall in center to plate both for a 3-2 B-Dry edge.
As was the case earlier, Kaufman Realty’s reply was swift. Scott Troyer led off the bottom of the third with a single and came around on Todd Ropp’s two-out double to tie the score.
The fourth inning proved to be pivotal. Knight walked Adam Croup, and after getting a strikeout, he allowed a single and another walk to load the bases. That spelled the end of the evening for Knight, who had been so rock solid all season long for Kaufman.
Into the pressure cooker stepped Aaron Saal, who induced a double-play groundout off the bat of Tingle to end the threat.
“That was an incredibly huge moment in that game,” coach Yoder said. “Jordan didn’t have his best stuff, and he wasn’t hitting locations. We could have been in a lot of trouble there, but Aaron stepped in and did a great job. I just told him there was no pressure there. He just had to go out and throw his game, and he came through.”
Kaufman went quietly in the fourth, and in the fifth B-Dry took its third lead of the game. Saal walked Adams, and he would later come around to score on a wild pitch, giving B-Dry a 4-3 edge.
For the third time Kaufman faced a deficit, and for the third time it immediately responded with runs.
“That was huge for us to come right back in our half of the inning all three times,” coach Yoder said. “Baseball is such a game of momentum, and we kept them from seizing it.”
Mast and Mobley connected on singles with one out, and then Smith lost the strike zone. A walk to Ropp loaded the bases, and Trevor Kiner followed suit to force in the tying run. Smith then hit Saal to force in the go-ahead run, but Kaufman wasn’t done taking advantage of B-Dry’s miscues. Bryan Yoder’s sacrifice fly scored another run, and after Chris Kline singled to load the bases, another run scored on an error off the bat of Troyer for a 7-4 Kaufman lead.
Time was becoming of the essence for B-Dry, and it now had to face Garrett Harstine, who had come on in relief of Saal to start the sixth inning. Harstine had been pure gold all year, but B-Dry was not about to go quietly.
With two outs a trio of singles plated a run, the final single coming off the bat of Adams, who proved to be a tough out throughout the tournament. However, Harstine escaped danger by getting a fly-out to right.
“Garrett has been our biggest surprise this year,” coach Yoder said. “He has been lights out and has gotten better and better as the season went along. You expect guys to get better, but he took a monstrous leap forward.”
Now leading 7-5, Kaufman Realty wasn’t going to stand pat. It added a pair of huge insurance runs in the sixth. Miller singled, Mast swatted his second double of the night to push Miller over to third, and after Mobley walked, Miller scampered home on a wild pitch to make it 8-5. Another wild pitch allowed Mast to score, and Kaufman was three outs away from another title, now leading 9-5.
Harstine dug in and pitched like he has all season, retiring B-Dry on three infield outs in the seventh inning. Kaufman walked off the field as the 2017 Class A regular season and tournament champion.
Saal picked up the win in relief, allowing one run over one and two-thirds innings, while Harstine earned the save, allowing one run over two innings of work. Knight went the first three and one-third innings, allowing seven hits and three runs, walking three and striking out two.
Smith went four and one-third innings to take the loss, allowing seven runs, six earned on seven hits. He walked four and struck out three. C.J. Grove pitched the final one and two-thirds innings for B-Dry, allowing two runs on three hits, striking out two and walking a pair.
Offensively Adams went 2-for-3 with two runs and an RBI while Tingle also went 2-for-3, scoring a run. Westlake drove home a pair for B-Dry. Kaufman was paced by its veterans. Mast went 3-for-3, scoring three times, while Mobley went 2-for-3, driving in a pair and ending the year batting over .500. Miller had a pair of hits and scored twice for the winners.
“I thought Richie and Hayden’s experience really showed,” coach Yoder said. “Both of those guys are just competitors, and I thought Todd Ropp came through with a huge hit too. It was great to see our veteran players come up big in the clutch.”
Kaufman Realty ended its big year 30-2 on the season while B-Dry finished off a fine campaign at 25-9.