GALION — While it wasn’t a picture perfect baseball game, Elida did what it needed to do to leave Galion with a Division II sectional championship.
The fifth-seeded Bulldogs built a seemingly comfortable lead, but then had to hang on to defeat No. 4 seed Galion 8-6 on Friday evening at Heise Park.
Elida (14-13) will now face top seed and fellow Western Buckeye League member Lima Shawnee (21-6) in the district semifinals on Thursday at Bluffton University. Shawnee blanked Celina, another WBL squad, 4-0 on Friday.
Galion head coach Neil Schaffner talked about what he shared with the Tigers during his postgame message to the club.
“We talked about, basically, how much I appreciated their hard work,” said Schaffner. “I love being around them and the effort they put in every day. Getting to see the seniors as freshmen when I helped out four years ago and getting to talk to them as they’re mature adults now going into the next stage, I told them how much I appreciate everything they did this year for the program and for their teammates.”
The scoring started early with each side plating a pair of runs in the first inning. Elida took the lead for good in the top of the second inning, scoring twice more to grab a 4-2 advantage. The Bulldogs then plated three runs in the top of the fourth to extend their lead to 7-2.
Galion (15-10) trimmed the gap to 7-3 with a solo run in the home half of the fourth and then pushed two runs across in the fifth inning to pull to within 7-5.
Elida added its final run in the top of the sixth. Galion scored its final run of the game in the bottom of the seventh inning, but was unable to get any further offense going.
The Tigers left the bases loaded in the third inning and ended up leaving six runners on base altogether. Elida didn’t take advantage of all of its scoring chances, either, leaving seven runners on base.
Errors plagued both squads. Elida committed three and Galion had five miscues.
Carter Keinath started and worked six innings for the Tigers. Only four of the eight Elida runs were earned. Keinath recorded four strikeouts and three walks. Brody Symsick pitched the seventh inning for Galion.
“(Keinath) battled. He competed the whole time he was out there,” Schaffner said. “That’s all you can ask of anybody, just go out there and compete. He left it out on the mound. I wasn’t going to take him out. I just kept telling him, ‘You’re going back in.’”
Elida’s Hayes Burton pitched a complete game. He gave up six runs (five earned) on nine hits. Burton recorded four strikeouts and one walk.
Bulldogs head coach Todd Grapner said Burton stepped into the No. 1 pitcher role after staff ace and University of Michigan signee Brayden Lybarger was sidelined due to injury early in the season. Prior to his injury, Lybarger was the sixth-ranked player in Ohio, according to scouting service Prep Baseball Report.
“Brayden is one of the best pitchers in Ohio, so to lose him, not just physically, but mentally for our guys, that was hard,” Grapner said. “But Hayes has stepped up. Hayes has done this all year. He’s kept us in games. We haven’t given him this kind of run support all year, but he’s been doing this for us all season. Watching his progression has been fun because he’s had to step into a role that maybe he wasn’t used to and he’s done really well.”
Nick Niebel paced the Elida offense, going 3-for-4 with a double and two RBI. He scored twice. Mike Niebel was 1-for-2, drove in a pair of runs, and scored a run.
Keinath helped his own cause, finishing the day 3-for-4 with a triple, RBI, and scoring a run. Matthew McMullen was 2-for-3 with a double, three RBI, and scored a run. Wilson Frankhouse drove in a run on a sacrifice fly. Symsick was 1-for-4 and scored two runs.
Derek Prosser, Spencer Keller, and Jackson Staton each had a hit. Prosser and Troy Manring each scored a run.