For the fourth consecutive year, Archbold baseball will compete in the Division III regional tournament.
The Bluestreaks’ path there in 2019, however, is as unique as any.
Archbold, ranked No. 1 in the state in the OHSBCA coaches poll, exploded for eight runs in the first inning and steamrolled previously-unbeaten Lake 15-0 in five innings to win the program’s fourth straight district championship at Defiance High School on Saturday afternoon.
Two days after racing out to a 4-0 lead after one inning in a semifinal win over Otsego, Archbold doubled that effort in the first inning alone against the No. 11 Flyers.
After a Jeron Williams flyout, the next seven batters reached base. Holden Galvan drew a walk off starter Jacob Boelkens, the Northern Buckeye Conference Pitcher of the Year, but was quickly driven home as Ohio State commit Kade Kern powered a two-run home run to left field to get things going in a big way.
“We absolutely rocked the ball the first inning of both games of this tournament,” said Archbold skipper Dick Selgo of the early explosion. “That’s such a huge lift for our guys. Our guys are very aggressive and they took that approach today and for the weekend.
“Don’t be fooled by the score of that game ... To go undefeated like (Lake) did is tremendous and for our guys to rise to the occasion and beat them like that was a tremendous credit to our kids. Our guys were totally prepared for this. We played the toughest schedule in the history of Archbold High School against some very quality Division I and II teams and that helped us be ready for this.”
Added Kern, who now has three home runs and 12 extra-base hits on the season after coming a double short of the cycle: “We knew they had good pitchers and we were the underdog in the game so we just had the mentality to go out there and swing the bat and be confident at the plate. It was a good hitter’s day with the wind blowing out and we just squared up on the ball today.”
Lake helped the Streaks’ scoring out in the early goings, recording four errors in the field, including a pair of dropped fly balls that would have ended the inning. With the bases loaded and one away, seven-hole hitter TJ Rice ripped a deep hit to the warning track in left for a two-run single to make it 4-0.
“We know every day we’re putting nine guys out that can hit and field and we trust everyone on this team, no matter who it is,” said the senior second baseman, who was 3-for-3 and reached base in all four appearances.
Kreighton Sims added an RBI single in the first that chased Boelkens and Rice stole home on a pickoff attempt at first while a dropped fly ball in right led to two more runs scoring.
From there on it was a romp as Archbold plated another run in the second on a solo home run from senior slugger Cory Erbskorn, the team’s leader in batting average (.452 coming into the game).
A five-run third frame shut the door completely as Kern kept his hot hitting going with a one-out triple that scored a pair of runs and pushed the lead to double digits. Erbskorn followed with an RBI single to make it 12-0, followed by an RBI triple from Travis Ziegler and an infield grounder that made it a two-touchdown lead.
“When the hardest worker on your team is one of your best players, that’s a good sign,” said Selgo of Kern’s outing. “Kade Kern is passionate about this game and he never stops working and he never will stop working.”
The hard hitting and high scoring even overshadowed a masterful performance from ace Rigo Ramos. The lanky southpaw dominated the Flyer lineup, not allowing a hit until the third inning and only allowing a pair of singles in a two-hit shutout that featured 11 strikeouts and no walks.
“We’re capable of hammering the ball and we definitely did that today,” said Ramos. “It’s probably the greatest start we’ve had all year and it’s a good day to have it.”
Added Selgo: “Rigo’s had a tremendous year all year long. We needed him in this game today. Now, we never would’ve dreamed the score would be like this, we figured a 2-1, 1-0 game so we figured we had to have him on the mound. Fortunately we were able to get him out of the game early enough against Otsego that he had all his pitches left for today.”
The victory propels the Bluestreaks to yet another regional tournament. This time around, Archbold will take on Upper Sandusky at 2 p.m. at Elida’s Ed Sandy Field in a Division III regional semifinal on Thursday. The winner will face either Coldwater or Fredericktown on Friday for a regional championship at 5 p.m.
“We’ve had heartbreak the last three years. We thought we’ve had good enough teams to advance to state and maybe even win it and we know we do again this year,” said Rice of the opportunity to right some regional wrongs after losses in that round his last three seasons. “We need to learn from our wrongs these last couple years and we know we can win the next few games, no matter who we play.”
Archbold 815 10 — 15 12 0
Lake 000 00 — 0 2 5
Records: Archbold 25-3, Lake 27-1.
Winning pitcher: Rigo Ramos (5 innings, 0 runs, 2 hits, 11 strikeouts, 0 walks).
Losing pitcher: Jacob Boelkens (2 innings, 11 runs, 9 hits, 0 strikeouts, 4 walks). Others: Bronson Medley, Noah Blank.
Leading hitters: (Archbold) — Kade Kern single, triple, home run, 4 RBIs; T.J. Rice 3 singles; Cory Erbskorn single, home run; Travis Ziegler triple.