SOUTH WEBSTER — After a thunderstorm roared through South Webster, Ohio on Tuesday evening and caused a postponement of the OHSAA Division IV Sectional Championship game between the Jeeps and the Belpre Golden Eagles, the two teams met again Wednesday to finish the contest and determine which team would advance.
Tied 1-1 in the top of the sixth inning, the game resumed play at the South Webster High School baseball field and saw the Golden Eagles score two runs in the top of the inning to take a 3-1 lead and then eventually close out the game, winning 3-2.
With the win, Belpre wins a sectional championship and will advance the district semifinal round to be played at Paints Stadium in Chillicothe, Ohio.
“Congratulations to Belpre,” South Webster baseball coach Ryan McClintic said. “They played a very good baseball game.”
As play resumed, Belpre had a runner on first base and Counts up to bat. Counts had a two balls and no strikes count when play was suspended due to lightning on Tuesday. He ended up with a single to put runners on first and second which brought up Miller for Belpre.
After Miller reached on a single and loaded the bases, Sprague came up to the plate and drove in two runs for the Golden Eagles with a single into left field.
That would be the extent of the damage in the inning for the Jeeps, as they headed into their half of the sixth inning trailing 3-1.
South Webster was put down in order in the bottom of the sixth inning.
The top of the seventh was beneficial to South Webster, as the Jeeps were able to get out of the inning without allowing a run and only one baserunner, which was due to an error.
Trailing by two runs, 3-1, in the bottom of the seventh, the pressure began to mount on the Jeeps.
Garrett Rawlins led off the inning for the Jeeps by drawing a walk. Nathan Wolfenbarker came up to the plate next and was also able to draw a walk, which put two runners on with no outs in the seventh.
Shane Zimmerman hit a grounder to the shortstop who got the force out at second, but was unable to double up Zimmerman at first.
Thanks to Zimmerman beating the throw to first, Rawlins was able to score from second, as the Belpre defense was solely concentrated on the double-play.
With one out and Zimmerman on first base, Alek Blevins came up to the plate in hopes of continuing the Jeeps rally.
Zimmerman took off for second, but was called out stealing when the Belpre catcher fired the ball to the shortstop who made the tag.
Now with two outs and the bases empty, South Webster was down to their final out to stay alive in postseason play. The third and final out came as a result of a strikeout, to give the Belpre Golden Eagles a 3-2 win and the sectional championship.
“Our guys didn’t overlook this team,” McClintic said after the loss. “They were a great baseball team and we were focused and ready to play. We just didn’t take advantage of our opportunities.”
According to McClintic, not capitalizing on their opportunities sank the Jeeps hope of taking the sectional championship game.
“In the first five innings we stranded seven runners in scoring position,” McClintic said. “When you do that and you make a couple mistakes in the field and the other team gets a clutch hit, that’s a baseball game.
“Today doesn’t define us as a baseball team and it doesn’t define our kids as individuals. They’re all good kids. I love them all.”
Bradley Gee had a solid outing on Tuesday evening. He went five innings allowing one run off three hits. He didn’t issue any walks in the game and struck out nine batters before the game was suspended. He did not pitch on Wednesday.
Rawlins pitched the sixth and seventh innings for the Jeeps. He allowed two runs on three hits. Rawlins didn’t walk any of the batters he faced and rang up one Golden Eagle with a strikeout.
The senior pitcher started with a two ball count as the game resumed.
“That’s a tough spot for him to come in,” McClintic said. “You have to go right at the batter and it’s just a tough spot to be in.”
Rawlins scored both of the South Webster runs. He scored in the first inning after being knocked in by Zimmerman and then scored in the seventh with the same scenario, a Zimmerman RBI. Rawlins finished his last game as a Jeep going 2-for-3 at the plate, with two doubles and drew a walk.
Zimmerman drove in both South Webster runs in his 1-for-4 performance. He also stole a base in the fifth inning.
Senior Nate Hadinger went 1-for-3 from the plate, getting a single in the fourth inning.
The Jeeps will lose two seniors at the end of the year, Rawlins and Hadinger.
McClintic said he shared a quote he heard from an NCAA coach with his seniors after the game as they sat in the middle of left field. The quote was about realizing the sun will rise again in the morning, noting the grief they were currently feeling will soon fade.
“You’re never prepared for a speech like that,” McClintic said. “You don’t ever like to give a speech like that, but I just told them to use that as motivation in the next step of their lives.”
McClintic also talked about how much he will miss his two seniors when next season rolls around.
“They’ll be missed, not only on the field but here in the dugout,” McClintic said. “They’ve done a lot of great things for all our sports here (at South Webster). They’ll be missed on that aspect and as individuals. I love them both and wish them well.”
Reach Michael Hamilton at 740-353-3101, ext 1931, or on Twitter @MikeHamilton82.