By John Montgomery
FINDLAY - When Gibsonburg saw an opportunity, it pounced. And when the Golden Bears pounced, Hopewell-Loudon was bounced.
Gibsonburg cashed in two of H-L's errors for five runs Friday to upset the state's No. 1 team 5-2 and gain its first regional berth since its state title run back in 2005.
"Basically, I just told the guys, 'Hey, this is a great opportunity, especially seniors, as you're winding down your senior year, you're playing the No. 1 team in the state,'" Gibsonburg coach Kyle Rase said.
"They took advantage of the opportunity," he said. "Great moments come from great opportunities."
That started early.
Dylan Dorfmeyer drew a one-out walk from H-L's Tyler Tyree in the top of the first, went to third when Andrew Cantrell's grounder bounced off the chest of shortstop Logan Sendelbach and into short right-center, and scored on a passed ball.
Cantrell later scored on Leroy Neeb's two-out RBI single for a 2-0 lead.
"It was a walk and an error. That's what scored. Free things are going to score," H-L coach Brian Rothrock said. "We talk about that all the time; you can't give them free things.
"Those things there, they'll come back to haunt ya, especially in big games," he said.
Tyree settled in after that, finishing with five strikeouts, four hits and the lone walk over five innings before being relieved by Sendelbach. However, the Chieftains (25-2) had their own hitting woes most of the night against Logan Jones.
The senior was perfect through four innings before giving up a leadoff walk to Alex Ratchen in the bottom of the fifth.
Austin Kuhn singled him to third and Ratchen scored on a one-out wild pitch that sent Ratchen to second.
But Jones fanned the next two batters, got a big defensive boost in the sixth, an even bigger offensive boost in the seventh and weathered a one-run rally in H-L's final at-bat with two runners in scoring position to seal the upset.
"They came out and played an all-around solid ball game," Rothrock said. "I said it all along and I'll say it again, any given pitcher can beat ya on any given day, and that's what happened today.
"He wasn't going to fool us, he was going to come with the hard stuff and we knew that, and we just didn't get the hits we needed to get," he said.
The Golden Bears (21-7) stole H-L's momentum in the bottom of the sixth and top of the seventh.
Austin Harrison reached on a one-out error for the Chieftains in the sixth and broke for second when an errant pitch got away from catcher Kohler. But Kohler pounced on the ball and fired a strike to shortstop Gage Beaber for the out.
Tyler Tyree then ripped a triple to dead center, but another Jones strikeout - he had nine total - ended the threat.
Tristain Palmerton drew a leadoff walk from Sendelbach to start the seventh for Gibsonburg, but after a strikeout, H-L looked to get out of the inning when Dorfmeyer's sac bunt went right to Sendelbach.
Sendelbach fielded the bunt and wheeled to start a double play, but overthrew Tyree.
Cantrell then drew a walk to load the bases and was replaced by pinch runner Tyler Witte. Jones then popped out, but Kohler belted a two-run single to right-center and Neeb followed with an RBI single to push the lead to 5-1.
"The guys were in it every pitch. The bench was loud, they were in it. I couldn't be more proud of these guys," Rase said. "They just battled, they stayed with it, even the seventh inning when we put those runs on the board."
Again, H-L looked to rally.
Kuhn doubled to left-center and scored a short time later when Palmerton's throw on an attempted double play skipped past the first baseman to put Eric Tanner on base.
Jordan Reinhart singled to left one out later and a wild pitch put runners on second and third, but Jones fanned Sendelbach to end the game and give a well-worn arm a rest.
"I kept watching the full counts, every foul ball, the high pitch count. He's strong," Rase said of Jones, whose seven full-count situations included three in the final frame. "He threw 10 innings in less than 48 hours and his pitch count's probably up to 170."
The loss ended H-L's streak of three consecutive regional appearances, but Rothrock said the Chieftains, especially the seniors, were nothing if not winners.
"I told them out there [in the field], 'I take nothing away from you guys. You just swept through the MAL, you were the Division IV poll champion for 2012. You're going to be great young men, you're going to be great leaders in the world,'" he said.
"They're a great group of kids, they work their (tails) off and they're going to do everything they can to make sure that they are successful, and that's going to be in everything in life," Rothrock said.