November 28, 2014

Elyria
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Sectional Baseball: Amherst executes squeeze play, beats Midview in 9 innings

Amherst center fielder Rees Rua, left, is congratulated by right fielder Brad Hagerich on Thursday after making a diving catch during the Comets’ 10-9 win in nine innings. KRISTIN/BAUER/CHRONICLE

Amherst center fielder Rees Rua, left, is congratulated by right fielder Brad Hagerich on Thursday after making a diving catch during the Comets’ 10-9 win in nine innings. KRISTIN/BAUER/CHRONICLE

AMHERST — Thanks to the finicky gods of Ohio weather, the Division I sectional baseball final between Midview and Amherst had more fits and starts than a Kardashian wedding. Scheduled for Tuesday afternoon, it was postponed, rescheduled, postponed again, reset dangerously close to proms and the weekend, called off again, reset hours later.

But when the game was finally played late Thursday afternoon the wait was forgotten in the wake of one for the ages. The Comets pulled out a 10-9 extra-innings victory over a game Midview squad.

Amherst (18-8) moved on to district play by the smallest of margins as coach Matt Rositano’s Comets beautifully meshed all the moving parts to win in the bottom of the ninth on a bases-loaded suicide squeeze. Designated hitter Joe Masters provided the first piece with a blast to deep center field for a double to lead off the inning.

“I was up in the count 1-0, and I knew he was gonna come in with the fastball to try and get it by me and even the count,” Masters said. “I just swung dead-red looking fastball. As soon as I hit it I thought it was gone, to be honest, then I saw the guy still going back so I just ran hard.”

Enter part two, as Rositano inserted speedy Jordan Williams as a pinch runner. After a Zach Bires base hit, Midview intentionally walked Brad Hagerich, who had earlier bashed a three-run homer that tied the game at 9. With the bases loaded and no one out, the firing pin for the inning stepped up in the form of senior Aaron Soto, tasked with laying down a perfect bunt while the fleet Williams made for home. The Comets parts functioned like a Swiss watch as Williams beat the tag at the plate as the home crowd erupted in cheers.

“Joe does what he does, he’s the designated hitter for a reason,” Rositano said. “When you’ve got 6-foot-4, 250 (pounds) on the bases and a kid who can run really fast who you can pinch run with, obviously that’s what you do late in the game.”

Despite an efficient day of offense by both teams, combining for 19 runs on 20 hits, Rositano was “all in” on the squeeze play even before Hagerich was walked.

“We were thinking it with Brad at the plate either way. But once they walked him, Aaron is a senior, I know he’s gonna get the job done,” Rositano said. “Lucky for us they threw a strike and he got it down. It worked out.”

Midview (13-12) had much to be proud of in the heartbreaking loss. Falling behind 6-1 after two innings, the Middies battled back with four-run innings in the third and fourth, placing the pressure squarely on the shoulders of No. 1 seed Amherst. They did it with timely hitting and heads-up baserunning, including an attempted pickoff of Zach Nash at first with the bases loaded that Nash turned into diamond chaos by not leaping back but breaking for second, thus unleashing a torrent of base-shifting Middies that scored Tyler Lienerth as well as setting the table for Kyle Warner’s three-run homer in the next at-bat.

Nash and Brendan Matcham each had three-hit days and, despite taking the loss, Dylan Steindl pitched effective relief in keeping Midview in the game into extra innings.

“Midview, they’re a very solid team, they just hit the ball no matter what,” Masters said. “We were up 6-1 and they never gave up and came back. We had to dig deep.”

In similar form, it was senior Justin Mott’s four strong relief innings that kept Midview cooling its heels after having touched up starter Noah Skladan for all nine of its runs.

“Justin is such a beautiful thing to have in your back pocket to finish out a game,” Rositano said. “That is the longest he’s pitched this year. He has the ability, even when he gets in a jam like the one inning today, to get the strikeout and that’s what he’s done for us all year.”

Next up for the Comets is a Monday matchup with the sectional winner of Elyria and Lakewood. In the tournament Amherst knows there are no easy teams and it got a taste of that from the spirited Midview squad.

“It’s all good teams at this stage,” Rositano said. “Both teams played very efficient and pushed runs across when they had to. We just got the last one.”

Contact Fred Steiner at 329-7135 or ctsports@chroniclet.com.

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