ELIDA — Archbold continued its potential march to Akron behind a three-headed monster on the mound, timely defense and clutch hitting from the bottom of the order in Thursday’s 3-0 blanking of No. 5 Upper Sandusky.
All that stands between the Bluestreaks and Akron is perennial state power and second-ranked Coldwater, a 7-0 victor over Fredericktown in Thursday’s second semifinal. Today’s regional final at Ed Sandy Field between the Bluestreaks and Cavaliers will begin at 5 p.m.
On Thursday, the No. 1 Streaks finally solved crafty Rams’ southpaw Jason Holly in the fifth inning when the 6-7-8 hitters started some two-out magic. Mitch Grosjean singled — Archbold’s first knock since Jeron Williams led off the bottom of the first with single. TJ Rice then tagged a Holly heater down into the left-field corner to score Grosjean just ahead of the relay throw from shallow left field.
“It was a 1-1 count and he kind of left a fastball over the plate,” said Rice. “I just drove it like I know I can.”
Kreighton Sims followed with an RBI single to give the Streaks a two-run advantage.
“Kreighton Sims gave us a 2-0 cushion and you could see everybody relax a little bit,” said Archbold skipper Dick Selgo. “We could get back to playing baseball instead of feeling so much pressure.
“We were up against a very good opponent, a very worthy opponent,” added Selgo. “My concern going into the game was we’re so used to scoring and scoring early and scoring big, that if we didn’t, that we would start feeling pressure. That was happening a little bit. TJ Rice’s double with two outs was big to get us on the scoreboard.”
Cory Erbskorn tacked on another run to Archbold’s ledger in the sixth with a one-out RBI single after Williams singled to start the frame and Holden Galvan reached on an infield single.
“He had a nice fastball, good curveball and his off-speed stuff was good,” said Selgo of Holly. “We never got very many good swings in. Any way you can score three runs, we’ll take them.”
The trio of Rigo Ramos, Ethan Hagans and Williams limited the Rams to four hits. Ramos started and was pulled after an eight-pitch one-two-three first inning. Hagans pitched into the sixth before being relieved by Williams after walking the lead-off hitter. Williams capped off the sixth and started the seventh, but was pulled after throwing his 30th pitch of the day so he can be used today in the regional championship.
“That was our plan, to get Rigo through the meat of their order starting out the game and then going with Hagans,” explained Selgo. “We weren’t positive we were going to do that. We decided to stay with that and fortunately Hagans pitched well for us. Then I thought it was time for a change when I brought Williams in. Then we ran into the pitch-count rule or he would’ve stayed out there.”
Ramos dealt just 18 pitches.
“He just had a good warmup today,” added Selgo of Ramos.
Holly collected three of Upper’s four hits.
“I have to commend our pitching,” lauded Selgo. “Ethan Hagans has been holding us in games all year long. He did that again today. Williams came in and did an excellent job. The reason we pulled Williams was his pitch count got to 30 and we wanted to have him available tomorrow. That’s why we pulled him and went back to Rigo.”
While the Archbold pitching trifecta kept the Rams off the scoreboard, it wasn’t without some white-knuckle moments.
With runners on first and second and two outs in the fourth, Upper Sandusky’s Ben Sheaffer drilled a pitch to the gap in right-center field. Right fielder Cory Erbskorn and centerfielder Kade Kern both converged on the ball at the same time with Erbskorn colliding into Kern as he hauled in the ball.
“It was scary,” said Selgo. “It was one of those that was right in between in them and they were both going hard; neither one of them wanted to let it drop. One called it, the other called it and fortunately no one got hurt on the play.”
A scorching liner off the bat of Diago Cazarez to end the fifth would’ve scored Holly from second base but Rice did not have to move at second base to make the grab.
Upper caused some more uneasiness for the Streaks in the seventh, loading the bases for No. 2 hitter Cole Sowers, who was caught looking at a Ramos bender to end the game.
“We knew coming in here we thought it would be a tough game and I thought the boys represented Upper Sandusky and the community proudly,” said Upper Sandusky leadman Scott Emerick, who guided the Rams to their first-ever regional appearance. “I think they played a great game against the No. 1 team in the state.”
“Usually in the past we hit the ball hard and then about the fifth, sixth inning we start finding those gaps,” added Emerick. “Today, we didn’t. We kept on hitting it right to them. They made a couple nice plays out there.”
U. Sandusky 000 000 0 — 0 4 1
Archbold 000 021 x — 3 7 0
Records: Archbold 26-3, Upper Sandusky 22-6.
Winning pitcher: Ethan Hagans (4 innings, 0 runs, 2 hits, 1 strikeout, 3 walks). Others: Rigo Ramos, Jeron Williams.
Losing pitcher: Jason Holly (6 innings, 3 runs, 7 hits, 5 strikeouts, 1 walk).
Leading hitters: (Upper Sandusky) — Jason Holly 3 singles. (Archbold) — Jeron Williams 2 singles; TJ Rice double.