The Falcons were their own worst enemies for much of Friday’s Division II sectional championship game. Six errors led to five unearned runs and a 5-1 deficit after 41⁄3 innings.
Firelands managed to climb out of its hole and beat Vermilion 6-5 thanks to a bases-loaded walk with one out in the bottom of the seventh. The Falcons got a run in the fifth and three runs in the sixth before ending the game when Justin Baumann laid off a 3-1 pitch and walked to force in Jake Myers.
Firelands (16-9) will play Rocky River, a 2-1 winner over Benedictine, on Thursday at
2 p.m. at the Lorain Pipe Yard.
Vermilion ends its season with an 8-17 record.
Chris Hertrick was the winning pitcher, throwing all seven innings and allowing five singles, two walks and getting seven strikeouts. Despite all the miscues behind him, Hertrick said he didn’t let them weigh heavily on his mind.
“I felt good,” Hertrick said. “I was just trying to keep throwing strikes and keep battling. It’s always good to win playoff games. We just have to come out strong next time.”
Cody Northeim, who didn’t play baseball last season, was an unlikely hero with a check-swing single with the bases loaded in the sixth inning that scored two runs and cut Vermilion’s lead to 5-4.
“I was expecting a curveball,” Northeim said. “It wasn’t a curve. It was a fastball and I tried to check my swing, but I got the bat on the ball. I knew I had hit it somewhere, but I didn’t know where until it dropped.”
The ball fell between first base and right field. Brett Helton, who began the inning with a long double to the gap in left-center, scored from third base. Kyle Smith ran hard all the way from second and came home right behind Helton.
Joe San Felippo was struck by a pitch to load the bases. Hertrick hit a bouncer to second that was thrown home, erasing Baumann on the force out. A wild pitch scored Northeim with the tying run.
The winning rally started when Myers walked with one out. Helton singled and Smith reached on an infield error before Baumann drew the walk that ended the game.
The bad inning for Firelands was the fifth, when the Sailors scored three times. A two-out popup with the bases loaded was dropped in left field to let two runs score. A throwing error brought in another.
“Honestly, I tried to keep positive,” Firelands coach Ted Busch said when asked about the errors. “When things like that pile up you have to cut it off, turn the page and get it done.
“They weren’t getting down on themselves. Chris never blamed his defense. They reached back and they regained their confidence. This has happened before. This isn’t the first time we’ve come back from being down.”
“We’re disappointed,” Vermilion coach Jeff Keck said. “They’re hurting bad and I’m hurting bad, from losing to our big rivals. I still have to credit Firelands for battling back.”