COLUMBUS – It was written in the stars for the Minford Falcons to make last year’s Division III Baseball Final Four. A team full of potential had nearly reached it’s peak by securing a regional championship without a single senior on their roster.
A year later, the same scenario wasn’t meant to be. Minford played a nearly perfect game in their Division III Regional Final against the Generals of Ridgewood, a team they had defeated in the same round of the postseason a year ago. However, the Generals’ would get the best in the two’s rematch a year later, taking a 4-3 win in eight innings over the Falcons Saturday on the campus of Ohio Dominican University.
“These guys came out and absolutely played their tails off from the time we got here,” Minford head coach Anthony Knittel said following the loss. “We just came up short. It’s part of life and it’s a part of the game. I’m extremely proud and blessed to be these kids’ coach, and saying goodbye to these seniors is so hard.”
Ridgewood took an early 2-0 lead after the top half of the first inning. The Generals picked up three straight hits off Minford’s Elijah Vogelsong to begin Saturday’s Regional Final followed by a Falcons error before Minford escaped the top of the first trailing just 1-0.
After the top half of the first, Vogelsong really settled down. At one time, the sophomore retired eight straight General batters. After the first inning, Vogelsong allowed just three hits in his final seven innings of work.
In the bottom of the second inning, Minford tacked on their first run of the game via sac fly from Nathan McCormick which drove in Luke Lindamood from third base.
No runs were scored by either team from the third inning until the bottom of fifth when Minford would take their first lead of the game. While continuting his ace like effort on the mound, Vogelsong decided to give himself some run support with a two out two-RBI single which gave the Falcons a 3-2 lead over Ridgewood. Those runs would be the last that Minford would score in Saturday’s game.
Ridgewood would score the game’s tying run via a two out RBI triple in the top of the sixth inning. For their final three innings worth of at bats, the farthest a Minford base runner would reach was second base.
Kaden Smith delivered the go ahead RBI double for Ridgewood in the top of the eighth inning to give the Generals a 4-3 lead in what would ultimately be Saturday’s final score.
Minford will lose five seniors to graduation: Darius Jordan, Ethan Lauder, Luke Lindamood, Reid Shultz, and Chase Workman. For Knittel, a first year head coach and a three year assistant, this group will always hold a special bond in his heart. A regional title a year ago, a 29-2 season this year as well as back to back SOC II titles, those feats stand at the top of the pantheon of Minford baseball history.
“These seniors, these kids, they are the Minford baseball program. These seniors have set the bar so high for everyone who will come after them. This class is the winningest class of baseball players in Minford school history. They’ve come out since day one and done everything for the game they love. They mean so much to the community, so to say goodbye to them is tough.”
Despite the loss of such production and the historic feats this senior class accomplished, Minford returns maybe more talent than any team in the SOC. Vogelsong, Brayden Davis who finished 3/4 at the plate Saturday, McCormick, Bailey Rowe, and Matthew Risner will all be returning pieces for the Falcons a year from now.
“We’re going to have some huge shoes to fill because this senior class was so talented. I told the younger guys that even though this is the end of this season, now it’s the next man up. I’m really big on the next man up. What I’m excited about is that now these kids know what it takes to get here. They know what it’s going to take from day one to get back to this level of baseball. We’re going to have some competition in the offseason and I’m excited to see what next year’s going to behold.”
Reach Jacob Smith at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930, by email at email@example.com, or on Twitter @JacobSmithPDT © 2019 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved