Three area teams will begin one final weekend of Jr. ACME baseball action at Archbold with a state title on the line.
Four games will commence on Saturday with Van Wert facing Coldwater at noon, Napoleon taking on Triad at 2:30 p.m., Ft. Loramie against Ottawa Hills at 5 and Archbold against Defiance in the 7:30 p.m. matchup.
Defiance enters the contest at 20-7 behind long-time skipper Jeff Oberlin in his 14th season at the helm, including two title seasons (2014, 2017) both over Archbold.
“I have tremendous respect for the Archbold program,” explained Oberlin. “They are always great competition for our program. Josh Johnson has coached their Jr. ACME program for quite a few years also and we are good friends. Dick Selgo and Jeff Brunswick lead the Archbold program and are very fine people as well.”
Saturday will mark the fifth time the two old rivals will clash this season.
“Every summer we play them about five or six times and this year we’ve played them four times and split with them,” related Bluestreak coach Josh Johnson. “The thing about Defiance is you know you’ll get a very fundamental team. We know what they want to do but they also know what we want to do so it comes down to who can execute.”
Archbold got off to a slow start to begin the season but has since got hot and Johnson knows they’ll need to maintain that though Saturday.
“We started the year 1-5 and then we won 10 out of our last 12 games,” he said. “The thing I tell the guys after every game is we have to limit our freebies, eliminate walks, hit batters and errors. We can’t give Defiance anything because they will take advantage of it.
“Our Jr. ACME team has now won the regional seven straight years, been to the finals six times and champions once. So the kids have a tradition to live up to.”
The 11-7 Bluestreaks rely on strong pitching behind Brayton Hobbs and Jayden Seiler and timely hitting from Hobbs, Mason Towns and Devin Morris.
“Since State is a single elimination tourney, you can’t make many mistakes and expect to advance,” stated Oberlin. “I think our advantage this year is we have played more games than most teams because of both the turf field at Defiance and the fact that I tend to schedule a lot of games so that I can get playing time for a lot of boys.”
The Bulldogs are peaking at the right time and Oberlin is excited to be around another talented team.
“We have a pretty good defense, and that helps you win ballgames,” he concluded. “Lately we have hit well too, team batting average is .322. Our pitching as of late has been pretty solid, the team ERA is 3.16. This group of kids has been the most fun group I have ever coached, and they all have very supportive parents.”
Napoleon earned a spot for Saturday by defeating Ottawa-Glandorf and coach Brandon Cramer believes his team will be ready against Triad.
“We have a very good team and have the potential to be there at the end,” he remarked. “The kids are really enjoying themselves this year and they mesh very well.”
The 9-11 Wildcats will be returning to the finals for the first time in more than 15 years.
“It’s definitely exciting to be here because I think the last time Napoleon was here was in ‘03,” recalled Cramer. “I was on that team so it’s cool to play in the tournament and then be able to coach in it.”
Winners in the single elimination format will face off at 2:30 and 5 p.m. on Sunday setting up the finale on Monday with the championship at 7 p.m.