CHILLICOTHE – The Minford Falcons ran a few runs shy of making a bid for the state semifinals Friday afternoon, as they lost to the Hiland Hawks of Berlin, Ohio, 5-1.
“I’m very proud of this baseball team,” Brent Daniels, Minford baseball coach said. “This group could care less about stats and who does what and who does when. They all did something during the year to make this team successful”
Minford was vying for an opportunity to advance to the state final four, which will be played next week in Columbus at Huntington Park.
Despite the loss and not advancing, Daniels said this season was very successful and was one of his all-time favorites.
“They played like a team this year,” Daniels said. “This has been the most fun I’ve had coaching in a while. They played for a team, they had fun and they played their butts off.”
Minford was well within reach of Hiland throughout most of the game, trailing 1-0 through three innings, after Hiland scored in the first.
The Hawks added a couple runs in the fourth inning to take a 3-0 lead as the game headed into the top of the fifth.
Aron Alley picked up the first hit of the game for Minford in the top of the fifth, as he sent a shot to right-center field that rolled all the way to the wall. The big Falcon rumbled to third base sliding in just before the tag to start the inning with a triple.
Matthew Gullet came up afterwards and singled off a 1-1 fastball that drove in Alley to give Minford their only run of the game.
Hiland fired back in the bottom of the inning scoring a couple runs to take a final 5-1 lead over Minford.
The Falcons only had one batter reach base in the final two innings, when Eli Daniels reached safely after drawing a walk in the top of the sixth inning.
While Minford statistically staggered on offense, the Falcons were making plenty of contact off Hiland’s pitching.
“We hit ‘at-em balls’”, Daniels said. “We hit the ball hard and it seemed everything we hit went right at them. We just couldn’t get that little ball to the right or left. We hit it right at them and we hit the ball really hard.”
Daniels also praised the Hiland defense.
“When you get to this level, they play great defense,” Daniels said. “They made the plays when they had to make them. We just fell a little bit short.”
Minford had lofty goals at the beginning of the season, which Daniels acknowledged he knew his team would be able to make a good run once things got clicking toward tournament time.
“We figured we could make a decent run once we got to that point,” Daniels said. “They proved me right. We had a good run.”
Eric Cook took the mound for Minford, going three and one-third innings for the Falcons. He faced 18 batters, throwing 47 pitches, 18 balls and 29 strikes.
Cook allowed three runs, all earned, from eight hits, while walking one batter
Jacob McCaleb and then Alex Powell came in to relieve Cook. McCaleb went one and two-thirds innings. He allowed two runs, one earned, off a single hit. He also walked two batters.
Powell entered in the sixth inning for the Falcons, allowing one hit.
Mitch Massaro got the start for the Hawks and was the pitcher of record. Massaro pitched a complete game for Hiland pitching all seven innings, throwing 76 pitches in the win.
The Hiland hurler threw 27 balls and 49 strikes to the 25 batters he faced.
Minford drew one walk against him, in the sixth inning while only having a single strikeout throughout the entire game.
Minford was limited to two hits on the day.
Aron Alley got the first hit for Minford from a triple, while Gullett followed with an RBI single.
Daniels drew the only walk issued by Hiland, which came in the sixth inning.
The Hawks racked up 10 hits in the win. Three of those hits came from Tyson Gingerich, while two more came from Braden Mast.
The middle part of the Minford infield was kept busy by the Hawks bats. Ian Tolle, the shortstop and Shawn Mersiel, the second baseman, totaled for eight assists.
Tolle made three assists, including one double play to end an inning.
Mersiel had five assists on the day, making several stops to hold runners at their base.
End of season discussion
Daniels held a brief talk in right field with his squad after they were awarded the regional runner-up trophy.
“I told them they played as a team and played together and made it fun,” Daniels said. “They played hard and that’s something to be proud of.”
Minford loses eight seniors to graduation this year. Aron Alley, Jared Alley, Eli Daniels, Michael Grasso, Kody Kennedy, Shawn Mersiel, Alex Powell and Hayden Scott played their final game as a Falcon.
“They had an outstanding season,” Daniels said. “They set the bar high.”
Last team standing
Minford was the last baseball team in the area still competing for a chance at a state championship.
Reach Michael Hamilton at 740-353-3101, ext 1931, or on Twitter @MikeHamilton82.