A regional regular will meet a regional newcomer on Thursday when No. 1 Archbold meets No. 5 Upper Sandusky at Elida Middle School’s Ed Sandy Field.
The Streaks (25-3) and Rams (22-5) will open the Division III regional at 2 p.m. before No. 2 Coldwater (23-6) faces 20-7 Fredericktown in the second game at approximately 5 p.m. Thursday’s victors will return to square off for a state berth on Friday at 5 p.m.
The Bluestreaks, making their fourth consecutive trip to the round of 16, will be looking to exorcise some demons the next couple days. Archbold’s last three trips to Elida have resulted in plenty of heartache.
“We’re never going to take for granted getting to the regional,” said Archbold skipper Dick Selgo. “Even though it’s the fourth trip in a row we know how difficult it is get there. We’ve had to beat some really good teams over the last four years. We appreciate very much still being alive and making this fourth trip to regionals.
“We know it’s always tough in the regional and there’s always going to be good teams there,” added Selgo. “We have to hope we’re playing as good as we can play when we get there.”
Columbus Academy trimmed the Streaks 4-3 last May in the regional semifinals while Eastwood knocked off the Bluestreaks 5-4 in the regional semifinals two years ago and Clear Fork rallied to top Archbold 4-3 in the regional championship in 2016.
“We don’t talk about that,” said Selgo about the the last three regional appearances. “We want to try to knock that door down if we can.”
Upper is making its first regional appearance ever under fifth-year leadman Scott Emerick, who spent a year at the JV level before taking over the Rams.
“It means a lot for our program,” said Emerick. “It’s the first time in school history we’ve gotten this far. It’s a good group of kids and good group coming through the system. This is definitely going to help getting kids out (for baseball), which is huge.
“Some of these kids have been together for about the last six years since middle school,” added Emerick. “This year with the way preseason went and how they’ve got along ... having coachable kids, I can definitely tell a difference. I’ve coached long enough to know if kids are buying into the program.”
The 22-5 Rams are one of three teams from the North 10 Conference playing at the regional level this week, with Colonel Crawford and Seneca East playing in separate D-IV regionals.
“We’ve got a lot of good teams in our league and by playing better competition it’s just going to make you better.”
Thursday’s matchup will feature southpaws toeing the slab for Archbold and Upper Sandusky. The Streaks will send ace and NWOAL Player of the Year Rigo Ramos (11-1, 0.99 ERA, 70.2 innings, 29 hits, 130 strikeouts) to the hill against Jason Holly.
“We’ve improved a lot defensively,” said Emerick. “Our pitchers have been very solid. Our team ERA is under 2.00 and we have starters going the whole distance and not having to worry much about relief.”
Holly stands 7-0 with 22 hits allowed in 49.2 innings. He’s fanned 93 and walked 25 with a 0.85 ERA.
Brenyn Marquart is another standout starter for the Rams. He has logged the most innings on the team with 50.2, allowing 32 hits while fanning 71 and walking 29.
“Jason has more strikeouts per inning on average,” explained Emerick. “Brenyn is the type of pitcher that seems to get better as the game goes on. His velocity keeps getting better as the game goes on.”
Diago Cazares (8 games, 19 innings, 14 hits, 30 strikeouts, 12 walks) would be the top relief option for Emerick.
Both teams go into the regional without key starters due to injury.
The Rams lost their other standout hurler Keaton Cunningham (5-0, 0.73 ERA0 to a season-ending injury about 10 games ago.
Archbold also lost its number two hurler with Aiden Warncke (3-0, 0.89 ERA) done for the season following an injury a couple weeks ago. Ethan Hagans (5-0, 1.28 ERA) has stepped into the number two role for the Bluestreaks.
A 15-0 blanking of previous unbeaten Lake in Saturday’s district final has the Streaks full of confidence.
“I would say, everybody on both sides was in total shock with the score,” said Selgo. “Lake never saw it coming and we thought we could win the game, but never by that kind of margin. It was one of those things where they got off to a horrible start in the first inning, with the combination of us hitting the ball really hard and them making some errors. I guarantee they had never been down by more than a few runs, let alone 8-0 after one inning. They were in shock and our guys just kept the hammer down.”
Both teams feature strong bats. Upper is hitting .312 as a team and swiped 78 bases.
Marquart (24 RBIs, 13 doubles) is hitting .392 for the Rams while Parker Frombaugh (.388, 22 RBIs), Cole Sowers (.372, 22 RBIs) and Cazares (.341) are also over .300.
Cazares hits leadoff and has 31 stolen bags while tallying 33 runs and Frombaugh has scored 31 runs.
Cunningham had a .400 average before being injured.
Archbold’s lineup is loaded with talent, led by Cory Erbskorn’s .461 average and 28 RBIs. Future Ohio State Buckeye, Kade Kern, has a team-high 31 RBIs after a huge day against Lake. He has a .447 average. Jeron Williams (.396), Drake Mohring (.386), Holden Galvan (.383), Kreighton Sims (.365), Mitch Grosjean (.352), Travis Ziegler (.352) and TJ Rice (.352) are also tough against opposing pitchers.
Coldwater is seeking its 21st trip to the state baseball tournament this week and returns from a state runner-up finish last June. Canfield South Range trimmed the Cavaliers 3-2 in the state championship.
Fredericktown is seeking its second trip to state and first since 2012.