CHILLICOTHE — Early in Saturday’s Division III district final against Adena, Minford’s Elijah Vogelsong slid safely into second base and came up limping.
It wasn’t the ideal situation for the Falcons, who had chosen to start Vogelsong on the mound in what was, at the time, the most important game on the team’s schedule.
When Vogelsong returned to the dugout, he found out he had dislocated his knee cap. With the option of taking himself out of the ballgame or pushing through, Vogelsong chose the latter.
The sophomore popped his kneecap back in place, made sure to grab his hat and his glove, and jogged back out to the hill to finish the job he started. The result was a 10-0 five-inning win over the Warriors, one where Vogelsong threw all five frames, allowing two hits and whiffing five.
Pain is a word Elijah Vogelsong hasn’t heard of with a district championship trophy by his side.
“This feels amazing,” Vogelsong said postgame. “It feels amazing to bring another one home for Minford. “We play as a team and we always play hard. It’s just fun with all these guys. I’m having the time of my life right now.”
The win marks the second straight district title for the Falcons (28-1), who advanced to the OHSAA State Semifinals last year.
The ultimate goal is to get back to that point, and then further. The train seems to be on course for its destination. In district play alone, Minford outscored its opponents 22-2.
“This is definitely another check on our checklist,” Knittel said. “All year, we haven’t shown up to our potential when it comes to hitting. Now, it’s good to see the hits and the sticks coming out at the right time of the year. We’ve worked hard on putting the ball in play and situational hitting. These kids have bought in, come in each day and played hard. I’m extremely proud of them.”
In the bottom of the first, Vogelsong quickly aided his own cause with a two-run double down the left field line that scored Brayden Davis and Darius Jordan — who were walked and hit by a pitch, respectively.
After Ethan Lauder was hit by a pitch, Vogelsong and Lauder both scored on back-to-back throwing errors to hand Minford a 4-0 lead. Luke Lindamood rounded out the frame’s scoring, coming home on an RBI groundout off the bat of Nathan McCormick.
“Anytime you can jump on a team early, I like the chances,” Knittel said. “But you have to play the rest of the game. These guys are hungry. When somebody’s hungry, they work harder. But anytime we can jump on anybody early, I like the chances.”
In the second, Vogelsong logged an RBI single, scoring Jordan and making it 6-0. Then, in the third, Lindamood made it 7-0 with a towering solo home run that snuck over the left field wall.
After Bailey Rowe singled in the fourth, he stole second, moved to third and scored on an RBI groundout via Jordan to make it 8-0.
Reid Schultz singled in the fifth, stole second and scored on an RBI single from Matthew Risner before Risner rounded out the final, scoring on an RBI single via McCormick.
Logging base hits for Adena (19-11) were Garrett Wilburn and Zach Fout.
For Minford, Lindamood finished 2-for-3 with a home run and two runs, Vogelsong was 2-for-3 with a double and three RBIs, and Jordan went 1-for-2 with a stolen base, two runs scored and an RBI.
The Falcons advance to take on Williamsport Westfall in a Division III regional semifinal at 2 p.m., Thursday at VA Memorial Stadium.
“All we have to do is play our game,” Knittel said. “We just have to play no other way than we have all year long. Play what’s in front of us and play in the moment. We’ll let everything else talk for itself. But it’s going to be exciting. It’s going to be a lot of fun. We’re ready to go.”
The Mustangs were 2-1 winners over Wheelersburg Saturday afternoon in their own Division III district title game.
“It’s always win or go home at this point,” Vogelsong said. “Every team is going to give us their best. So we have to give them our best.”
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