By Tony Maluso
Hopewell-Loudon second baseman Braden Park makes a bare-handed grab of a ground ball before throwing to first for an out in the fifth inning of Saturday’s sectional tournament game in Bascom against Colonel Crawford.
Hopewell-Loudn catcher Bryan Scherger makes a catch on a pop up off the bat of Colonel Crawford’s Jon?Hoffman during Saturday’s sectional tournament game in Bascom.
BASCOM - A year ago, Garret Sendelbach took the mound for Hopewell-Loudon in the sectional tournament. That day, Sendelbach threw a great game, a four-hitter, but came out on the wrong end of a 1-0 decision.
Fast forward 12 months and the Chieftain southpaw made sure history wouldn't repeat itself.
In Saturday's Division III sectional semifinal against Colonel Crawford, the offense provided plenty of run support while Sendelbach shut down the Eagles, tossing a two-hitter and striking out 11 in a 9-2 Hopewell-Loudon victory.
"It was a beautiful day, I think we came out and played some pretty good ball," Hopewell-Loudon coach Justin Gunka said. "It feels great; it's a great start (to the tournament)."
"My stuff was working really well," Sendelbach said. "And, relying on my defense behind me. Getting ground ball outs; getting pop fly outs. It was really good."
Leading the defense was Braden Park, who recorded six assists from his second base position, including a bare-handed gem on a grounder in the fifth inning that at the time preserved a no-hitter for Sendelbach. The no-no ended up being erased later in the inning on a slow roller down the third baseline, but after the game, Sendelbach couldn't give enough credit to his defense.
"It's awesome," he said. "They're making plays left and right. It's awesome. They're a really good group of guys to play with."
Saturday was a bit of redemption not only for last year's sectional loss, but for an April 21 loss to the same Colonel Crawford team. The Chieftains dropped a 5-4 decision that day, but were determined to make sure the game that mattered most had a different result.
"We came out with a vengeance," catcher Bryan Scherger said. "We came out fighting and didn't stop."
That vengeance was clear from the very first batter of the game. Jordan Stewart ripped a single and eventually scored after a stolen base, a sac-bunt and a double steal.
The big offensive explosion though came in the third inning.
Ryan Depinet led off with a single and Sendelbach followed with a double, chasing Eagle starter Ethan Burkhart from the game. Hopewell-Loudon didn't let up after the change. The first six Chieftains up in the inning reached base, and when it was all said and done, six runs had scored and control was firmly in Hopewell-Loudon's dugout.
"That was a really, really, really tough inning," Colonel Crawford coach Joe Swartzmiller said. "But I tell you what, hats off to them. That was a great pitcher. We faced him a few weeks ago and we beat him . And today he was on. He hit his spots, kept the ball down. He did everything; he was great. And they hit the ball. That's the difference of the game; their pitcher and they hit the ball, and we didn't hit the ball."
After Tyler Imes walked to load the bases, Scherger dropped a single in short right field scoring two to start the run parade in the third. Logan Tyree and Park followed with RBI base hits, and Austin Tooker and Jackson Sebetto also drove in runs.
"We just got our hits together, scored some runs, did our job," Scherger said. "Everybody on the team did their job and it shows on the scoreboard."
In the span of one inning, a tight one-run game ballooned to a seven-run Chieftain advantage. And Sendelbach sure didn't complain about the extra cushion.
"It helps a lot," he said. "Boosts the confidence so I know I can go out there and throw ground balls. Take a bit of the pressure off."
Colonel Crawford got on the board in the fifth on a two-run single by Connor McCreary. Hopewell-Loudon, though, answered right back in the bottom of the inning. Stewart singled home Tooker, and Sebetto also came around to score off a throwing error.
Saturday's win was a total team effort for Hopewell-Loudon. All nine players in the lineup scored runs. Eight different Chieftains had base hits and six drove in runs. Stewart, Depinet and Imes all had multi-hit days.
"We came out and hit the ball today," Gunka said. "Garret threw strikes and did his job, and I thought we had a great effort hitting the ball today."
Hopewell-Loudon (15-8), the district's five seed, advances to a sectional final Thursday at third seeded Huron. The Tigers topped Western Reserve 11-3 Saturday.
Colonel Crawford drops to 7-15. The Eagles had their chance to get to Sendelbach early. Sendelbach walked the bases loaded in the second, but got a grounder to end the inning.
"That is our season in a T right there," Swartzmiller said. "We have not had that one big hit. And it's going to catch up to you. Bases loaded, two outs. Just needed one, even a dink, something to get us going. But, no, didn't do it."