In this case, the destination is the Ohio Hot Stove state finals at Butler-Rodman Park. In Class H (U-10), Vermilion Impact took the path of least resistance, needing just five innings to run-rule the Mogadore Indians 12-2.
In Class G (U-12), the Wildcats traveled a rockier course, coming from behind twice to beat Alliance Rick Black Photo 5-4 in eight innings.
The Wildcats (26-3) were one strike away from victory in the seventh inning before Alliance tied the game at 4. With the score still tied in the bottom of the eighth inning, Vermilion’s Casey Scroggins led off with a single, stole second and waited for Jonah Pfeil to do the rest.
Pfeil smashed a double over the head of the Alliance right fielder, scoring Scroggins and sending the rest of the Vermilion players charging out of the dugout to begin celebrating.
“I just thought I had to hit the ball for my team,” Pfeil said of his mindset during the final at-bat.
“My goal was to get a hit so we could win the game. When I made contact it felt good, and then when I saw my teammate rounding third and coming home to score it was the most amazing feeling.”
The Wildcats will make their second consecutive trip to the state finals today at 12:30 against Homeworth Fab.
“I’m proud of this team every time we’re out on the field,” Wildcats coach Kenny Clark said. “I wish we would have hit the ball a little better today but we ran the bases exceptionally well and we got a couple of breaks and took advantage of them. That’s a pretty good baseball team we beat today.”
Instead of getting down after watching the lead evaporate in the seventh inning, Clark said the team stayed focused and were ready to make something happen.
“Casey got it started for us. That was a pressure situation for a guy to get on base there in extra innings but he’s been hitting for us all season,” Clark said. “And I just knew Jonah was gonna get a hit there.”
After a seven-run second inning the outcome was really never in doubt for Vermilion Impact. The only drama left was to see how many innings it would take to dispose of the Indians.
Vermilion (30-3) went into the fifth with an 11-2 lead, one run short of the margin needed for the mercy rule, but the Impact wasted little time taking care of business.
Jaden Fox led off the fifth with a single and Konnor Clark followed with another hit — his third infield hit of the afternoon — which nailed the Mogadore pitcher in the foot and came to a stop in front of the pitcher’s mound.
Sean Saterlee’s line-drive single scored Fox to end the game.
“We came out strong. Hunter (Etienne) pitched awesome and we hit well, got our bunts down plus we got a lot of extra bases on passed balls,” said Clark, who scored three runs. “The second inning was really important because when we get a big lead we can relax and focus on winning the game.”
Etienne pitched the first three innings before Jack Wells came on to pitch two innings of scoreless relief. Wells also had a triple in a three-run fourth inning.
“I struck out the first two times at-bat but I knew my teammates would pick me up,” Wells said. “I was nervous coming in to pitch in such a big game, but I knew if I just threw strikes and played Impact baseball everything would work out and we would win.”
Vermilion belted out 13 hits and every starter scored at least one run.
“The boys came and did what they needed to do,” Impact manager Jim Wells said. “At this point of the season the coaching is done. The boys know what to do. All we do is tell them to take it one game at a time and do what we need them to do and we won’t stop until the finals.”
The Impact face the Lake Twins in the state final today at 11:30 a.m.
Sheffield Venom also advanced to the final in Class EE (U-16) with a 12-7 win over the Alliance Bulldogs. The Venom improved to 18-0 and won their 43rd game in a row dating back to 2012 when they were the Class F state champions.
Nathan Jasko had three hits for Sheffield and four players scored a pair of runs each.
“That’s a great team we played today. Probably one of the two best teams we’ve faced all season,” Venom manager Mark Racz said. “We stress to the kids the fact that if we hit the ball we’re going to win. We have enough pitching. We go four or five pitchers deep on this roster.”
Brad Hughes pitched the first four innings, holding the Bulldogs to one run to pick up the win. He also reached base three times and scored a run.
“It was the hardest game of the season today,” Hughes said. “They were an all-around good team but we had our bats today. We’ve really jelled as a team this year on and off the field. We’ve grown closer as friends. That helps us pull together when we get in tight situations.”
Two other areas teams also earned a trip to the state finals. In Class F, Midview North Cavanaugh defeated the North Akron Tigers 7-1, while in Class FF, South Amherst/Firelands was a 6-4 winner over the Stark County Reds.
Contact Todd Shapiro at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
HOT STOVE STATE TOURNAMENT
Saturday’s semifinals … local teams only
Class E: Ellet Akron Aztecs 6, Lorain Titans 3
Class EE: Southeast Palmyra 7, Grafton General Plug 1
Sheffield Venom 12, Alliance Bulldogs 7
Class F: Midview North Cavanaugh 7, North Akron Tigers 1
Class FF: South Amherst/Firelands 6, Stark County Reds 4
Class G: Vermilion DRD Wildcats 5, Alliance Rick Black Photo 4, 8 innings
Class H: Vermilion Impact 12, Mogadore Indians 2
Today’s finals … local teams only
Class EE: Sheffield Venom vs. Southeast Palmyra, 3 p.m., field 1
Class F: Midview North Cavanaugh vs. Champion Blue Jays, 4 p.m., field 2
Class FF: South Amherst/Firelands vs. Medina Indians, 1 p.m., field 2
Class G: Vermilion DRD Wildcats vs. Homeworth Fab, 12:30 p.m., field 3
Class H: Vermilion Impact vs. Lake Twins, 11:30 a.m., field 4