ALLIANCE — If it’s Saturday at the Ohio Hot Stove baseball state tournament it must be North Ridgeville FTC on top of the scoreboard.
FTC advanced to the state finals for the fourth year in a row, this time in Class GG (age 11) with an 11-4 win over the North Ridgeville Bandits at Butler Rodman Park.
It was a one-run game in the fifth inning until FTC (21-2) pulled away with two runs in the bottom of the fifth inning and five more in the sixth.
“I’m tickled pink,” FTC coach Brian Strippy said. “It’s four years in a row for us and we’ve got some unfinished business.”
“We’ve kept these kids together, we starting working in January. That’s why we’re solid. These kids will fight for each other.”
Eric Lengaver and James Kingery took care of business on the mound for FTC.
Lengaver pitched four no-hit innings and Kingery finished the game to earn the three-inning save.
Kingery was also 2-for-4 with a double and two runs scored.
Shortstop Brian Strippy and third baseman Duke Baker also scored two runs for FTC.
“I just wanted to come out and throw hard and throw strikes,” Kingery said. “We have to play hard in the championship game if we’re going to win.”
Kingery added that timely hitting and hydration might be the key to FTC winning its first state title since the team was playing in Class I (7-8) three years ago.
Hydration was the buzzword across all four fields at Butler Rodman Park on Saturday as frequent water breaks and between-innings cold towel rubdowns became the norm as the temperature soared over 90 degrees with the heat index approaching triple-digits.
“It’s going to be fun to be back in the state finals and this year is going to be different,” left fielder Henry Calcut said. “We have some new kids on the team and we have a different mentality.”
Calcut was 2-for-3 with a double and two runs scored.
“The past couple of years we played like we thought we were still state champions and we were just gonna blow every team out,” Calcut said. “This year we lost a game early in the season and we realized, ‘Oh, we can lose.’ So as it got closer to the tournament we started working harder.”
Wellington Regulators 14, Maplewood Yankees 4
In Class H (9-10), Wellington is one game from completing its perfect season after a 14-4, five inning win over the Maplewood Yankees.
The Regulators improved to 24-0 heading into today’s state final against a familiar foe, Black River Red Maple, a 6-2 winner over Canton South in the other semifinal.
The Regulators defeated Red Maple 11-1 in the regular season.
Third baseman Dominic Reyna had a pair of doubles for the Regulators, including one in the second inning to ignite a seven-run rally that gave Wellington a 9-2 lead.
“It just feels good to get some hits and help my team get to the state finals,” Reyna said. “We were here a couple of years ago and it didn’t go too good.”
Three Wellington pitchers — Colton Cowling, Wyatt McKee and Nathan Griffin — combined to strike out 10.
“It feels great to be going to the championship game,” Griffin said. “I think this game today is going to give us a lot of confidence heading into tomorrow. We’re probably going to be nervous when we wake up tomorrow but we’re going to ready for the game.”
McKee and Hunter Varney also had two hits each for the Regulators.
“That second inning was big for us,” Wellington coach Jake Baker said. “We got off to a bit of a slow start and we were able to turn it up. I have a lot of confidence in our pitching staff so as long as we’re able to hit the ball we’re going to fine.”
Midview Maniacs 18, North Ridgeville Corntown Crushers 16
In a wild Class HH (9) semifinal, the Maniacs held up for the win in a game that took over two-and-a-half hours.
Landon Taylor hit a home run in the fourth inning and then closed out the game on the mound to preserve the win for the Maniacs.
“Oh, man, what a stressful game. These kids are gonna give me a heart attack,” Maniacs coach Jeremy McMillan said. “That game was so fun. That was a heck of a good team we beat. Those were two really good teams out on the field.”
Midview twice scored seven runs in an inning — the most a team is allowed to score in Class HH — in the first and the fourth.
Sawyer McMillan also scored three runs for the Maniacs (21-2).
The Corntown Crushers almost completed a dramatic comeback, scoring five runs in their last at-bat, falling two runs short of sending the game into extra innings.
That sixth-inning rally was kept alive by Brayden Casey and Ryker Yarosh home runs.
“I’m so proud of these kids, they worked their butts off today,” McMillan said. “This team has a lot of heart and it also helps that we were really mashing the ball today, and that team had some really good pitchers.
“When you’re coaching a team of 9-year olds you don’t try to schedule any last-minute practices before that state title and no late-night film sessions are on the agenda so Saturday night was reserved for fun.
“We were here last year and the kids got nervous, so this year we’re all staying at a country club about a half hour away and we’re trying to keep their minds off of baseball. We’re going to let them go swimming and kept it light. If they stay busy and stay having fun they just won’t think about it until it’s time to play. If we can play our game and the kids don’t get nervous, honestly, I don’t know who can beat us.”