HAMLER — Antwerp has gotten a taste of regional baseball for the first time in program history this year.
It appears the Archers have plenty of appetite left for a bigger dish as sophomore Austin Lichty scattered five hits in a 1-0 blanking of Colonel Crawford in Division IV regional semifinal action at Patrick Henry on Thursday.
The win propels the 18-5 Archers into Saturday’s noon regional championship game against Kalida – an 8-3 winner over McComb in the late game Thursday – and places Antwerp just seven frames from the Division IV state tournament.
For Antwerp, a .322 team batting average and a deep batting order are what often nab the headlines this season but the Archers’ defensive prowess won the day as Antwerp ended two separate innings with double plays and had multiple web gems across the infield to hold a potent Colonel Crawford team at bay.
“Defense and great pitching (won the game),” said Antwerp coach Zac Feasby. “Offensively, we didn’t execute. We missed some bunts, we missed some signs, some baserunning mistakes and we end up winning with great pitching and great defense. When you can rely on that even when normally you have a great offense, that’s the sign of a great team.”
Colonel Crawford, making its first regional appearance in 54 years, threatened early with runners at first and second following a pair of two-out singles. The Eagles very nearly loaded the bases or scored a run in the opening frame but a fly ball to shallow center was hauled in by shortstop Jacob Savina for an acrobatic trap to save the frame.
Both teams got runners in scoring position in subsequent innings, Antwerp loading the bases with two outs in the fourth and Colonel crawford advancing a runner to second in the fifth but neither were able to score thanks to called third strikes to end the innings.
The fifth inning, however, was where Antwerp made the play it had to.
Nine-hole hitter Jason Geyer drew a four-pitch walk from Eagles’ starter Gavin Feichtner and moved to second on a fly ball to center.
With two away in the frame, Savina stepped in and sent a rocket of a line drive on a 3-2 pitch to center field, deep enough to score Geyer from second and give Antwerp a 1-0 lead.
“(Feichtner) was trying to push it through people with two strikes. He was a pretty fast pitcher,” said the Archer junior. “I was expecting one right down the middle and I was ready to go.”
That run was enough for Lichty, who finished with five strikeouts and five hits in his third consecutive postseason shutout following a perfect game and no-hitter earlier in the tournament.
As the game progressed, the sophomore righthander seemed to find more of a groove, helping erase a leadoff error in the sixth by inducing a ground ball to short that Savina helped turn into an impressive 6-4-3 double play to end the frame. Lichty then proceeded to strike out the first two batters of the seventh before some nailbiting action in the last inning.
Dylan Cooke singled a 3-2 pitch to keep the Eagles’ hopes alive and stole second. Brock Ritzhaupt then came up with a chance to tie things up but a line drive to right landed just inches foul and Ritzhaupt walked instead. With two runners on, Lichty struck out Caleb Lohr swinging to secure the win and the complete-game triumph on the mound.
“The defense was amazing today, especially Savina’s catch in the first inning over the shoulder and with his bare hand,” said Lichty of the victory. “(First baseman Luke) Krouse made some great catches at first and some of the stretches he made were unbelievable to turn some double plays.”
Added Feasby: “That’s been one of our strengths all year. We face adversity and we don’t let it get to us. It’s really about mental toughness with these guys and we’ve got it.”
For Colonel Crawford, the bitterness of a regional loss is tempered by the fact the Eagles have no seniors on the 2019 roster and every player should return for 2020.
“It’s very, very tough. You get to this level and that’s the kind of game you expect,” said veteran CC coach Joe Gorbett. “That ball was foul by inches. If that’s fair, we’re still playing right now. That’s baseball. We battled the whole game.
“I told the guys to walk out with their heads up because they played hard and that’s all we could ask them to do.”
In the late contest, McComb seemed to have Kalida’s number for the second time this season, chasing BGSU commit and Kalida starter Owen Recker after 1.2 innings, tagging the Wildcat star for a 3-0 lead.
However, Kalida answered right back in the bottom of the second with a three-run, three-hit frame, highlighted by a two-run triple from ninth-hitter Gabe Hovest, followed by an RBI single by Zach Von der Embse. From then on, it was all Kalida, all the time, as the Wildcats broke things open with a three-run fourth frame and tacked on two more in the sixth to slam the door shut.
Kalida, which fell to McComb in a 1-0 pitcher’s duel in mid-April, will also have the full complement of its pitching staff despite using three against the Panthers. Owen Recker threw 44 pitches against McComb while Josh Recker and Thursday winner Tyler Klausing had 24 and 40 pitches, respectively.
The OHSAA pitch count rule requires at least one day of rest after throwing at least 31 pitches. Because of Antwerp softball’s D-IV state semifinal game Friday afternoon, the regional title game was moved from Friday at 5 p.m. to Saturday at noon, allowing the necessary day of rest.
Antwerp 000 010 0 — 1 6 1
Colonel Crawford 000 000 0 — 0 5 0
Records: Antwerp 18-5, Colonel Crawford 22-8.
Winning pitcher: Austin Lichty (7 innings, 0 runs, 5 hits, 5 strikeouts, 2 walks).
Losing pitcher: Gavin Feichtner (6 innings, 1 run, 4 hits, 8 strikeouts, 5 walks). Other: Drayton Burkhart.
Leading hitters: (Antwerp) — Jacob Savina 2 singles.
McComb 120 000 0 — 3 4 4
Kalida 030 302 x — 8 6 2
Records: Kalida 18-4, McComb 20-6.
Winning pitcher: Tyler Klausing (3.1 innings, 0 runs, 1 hit, 3 strikeouts, 1 walk). Others: Owen Recker, Josh Recker.
Losing pitcher: Tanner Schroeder (6 innings, 8 runs, 6 hits, 5 strikeouts, 7 walks).
Leading hitters: (McComb) — Tanner Schroeder 2 singles. (Kalida) — Gabe Hovest triple.