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Published: Monday, June 19, 2017 @ 9:00 AM
Updated: Tuesday, June 20, 2017 @ 10:43 AM
MINSTER — Thirteen miles separate Russia High School and Minster High School in northwest Ohio. State routes 66, 47 and 112 connect them — and now so does one baseball.
On June 3 at Huntington Park in Columbus, Russia and Minster played in the Division IV state championship final. Minster won 2-1 when senior Jon Niemeyer laced a single down the line in left.
Russia left fielder Trenton Monnin fielded the ball and relayed it to shortstop Dion Puthoff as Minster's Jared Huelsman raced home with the winning run in the bottom of the seventh. There was no chance to make a play at the plate. Puthoff kept the ball as Minster celebrated its third title in seven years.
PHOTOS: Russia vs. Minster
The story might have ended there. On the bus ride home, Puthoff joked with teammates about whether he should burn the ball. That would be one way to soothe the pain. In the end, however, after talking with his brother and sister, Puthoff put his disappointment behind him and decided to not only spare the ball's life but to preserve it for a lifetime.
On Thursday, Puthoff called Niemeyer's coach, Mike Wiss, to find out if Minster had held its postseason banquet. When he heard that had already happened, he called a friend who knew Niemeyer to find out where he lived. Then Puthoff drove 15 miles to Niemeyer's home to hand deliver the ball and a letter.
"Jon, I picked this up at the end of the game as something to remember my experience by," Puthoff wrote. "After thinking about it, I realized it would mean a lot more to you to have your game-winning hit ball. You played a great game and I want you to have it. Congrats on a great season and a great career."
Niemeyer wasn't home when Puthoff arrived. Alyssa Niemeyer, Jon's sister, answered the door and accepted the box with the ball and the letter.
Bryan Niemeyer, Jon's dad, didn't hear about the ball until Saturday. That's when he posted a photo of the ball and letter to Twitter. As of Monday afternoon, it had been shared on Twitter 187 times and received 680 likes.
"I thought it was worthy of some sort of notoriety," Bryan said. "I was very impressed by Dion's gesture. It was pretty cool showing what sportsmanship and high school sports are all about. That was a tough way to lose a game, a loss on a walk-off hit. That was pretty big of him."
Jon didn't think about getting the ball after the game. It wasn't until he had it that he realized what it meant to him.
"Honestly, I was just surprised he drove all the way to my house to give me the ball," said Jon, who plans to study construction management at Columbus State in the fall. "I hope to see him sometime soon so I can thank him."
Russia coach Kevin Phlipot wasn't surprised to hear of Puthoff's gesture.
"I texted him earlier this morning to tell him how proud I was of him," Phlipot said Monday. "If you knew him, that's in his character. He comes from a great family. His parents did a heck of a job."
Time has helped Russia overcome its disappointment of falling short of its first state championship since 1971. The Raiders finished 24-7 and made their first final four appearance since 1975.
"Right after the game, we were upset about it," Puthoff said. "But we're proud of what we did."
Published: Sunday, May 27, 2018 @ 7:09 AM
DENVER — Scooter Gennett capped his big day at the plate with a game-saving play in the field for the Cincinnati Reds.
Gennett tied a career high with five hits, including a solo homer, and then made a diving catch in the ninth to preserve the Reds’ 6-5 victory over the Colorado Rockies on Saturday night.
It marked the second time in Gennett’s career that he collected five hits, previously accomplishing the feat against the St. Louis Cardinals on June 6, 2017.
Tony Cruz also homered for the Reds.
Gennett’s defense sealed the win after the Rockies loaded the bases in the ninth against reliever Jared Hughes. Ryan McMahon, recalled from Triple-A Colorado Springs earlier in the day, led off with his second single and Chris Iannetta doubled to put runners on second and third. Hughes walked pinch-hitter Carlos Gonzalez to load the bases, but got Charlie Blackmon to ground into a forceout at the plate for the first out.
David Dahl, who drove in three runs, then lined out to Gennett at second, and the Reds second baseman doubled off Gonzalez to end the game.
“Right when he hit it, I felt like we would have a chance at getting him at (second),” Gennett said. “But that ball was hit pretty hard. I didn’t have too much time to think.”
It was the fifth double play the Rockies hit into Saturday night, which tied a franchise record.
“A couple of more feet to the left or the right, it’s a game-winner,” Dahl said. “I did everything I could do to hit the ball in the air. I hit the ball hard, he just made a good play. It was a high-to-low real quick.”
Michael Lorenzen (1-0) pitched one inning in relief, and Hughes earned his third save. Reds starter Tyler Mahle allowed four runs and six hits in five innings.
Gennett hit his 10th homer in the first and Cruz hit a two-run shot in the third to give the Reds the early lead.
The Rockies went ahead 4-3 in the fifth on Blackmon’s RBI triple and a sacrifice fly by Dahl, but the Reds scored three times off Colorado’s bullpen to take the lead.
Chris Rusin (0-1) picked up the loss after allowing two hits to the only batters he faced.
Nolan Arenado doubled and scored in the seventh to cut Cincinnati’s lead to one.
Reds: RHP Anthony DeSclafani (left oblique strain) pitched in another rehab assignment for Triple-A Louisville on Friday night and appears closer to returning from the 60-day DL. “I think he’s got one more scheduled,” interim manager Jim Riggleman said. “His previous one was very strong, this one got hit around a little bit. That certainly happens on those rehabs. You never know what’s going to happen in those things.”
Gennett’s torrid night at the plate continued a hot month for the second baseman. Gennett is batting .392 with eight home runs and 22 RBIs in May.
“He’s locked in right now,” Iannetta said. “He’s a guy we knew coming into the series has been swinging the bat really well.”
Cincinnati’s Billy Hamilton settled for a triple leading off the seventh inning, but the speedster was eyeing more as he came around second. Third base coach Billy Hatcher put up the stop sign so Hamilton missed getting his first inside-the-park home run.
Reds at Rockies, 3:10 p.m., FS Ohio, 700, 1410
Published: Saturday, May 26, 2018 @ 2:11 PM
— It’s debatable what soared higher Saturday afternoon, the go-ahead home run Wright State junior Peyton Burdick launched in the bottom of the seventh inning, or the bat he flung in the air halfway down the first base line to celebrate the shot.
Burdick’s two-run homer off UIC reliever Alex Padilla capped the comeback after a disastrous fourth inning as WSU won the Horizon League championship and earned a berth to the NCAA tournament with an 11-9 victory at Nischwitz Stadium.
“(Padilla) spiked a curveball the pitch before, and I told myself ‘he’s going to throw a fastball here,’” Burdick said. “I just told myself ‘don’t miss,’ and I didn’t miss.”
On his trot toward first base, Burdick looked into the WSU dugout and put a finger to his lips in a “ssshhhh” motion.
“(The Flames) started chirping and I couldn’t do that to their dugout, so I had to keep it within ours,” said Burdick, who flipped the bat as high as he could after making the gesture.
The victory sends WSU to the NCAA tournament for the ninth time as a Division I program, and third in the last four years. The Raiders will find out Monday at noon whom they will play and where.
Burdick’s ninth home run of the season helped him earn tournament MVP honors, but it was teammate Zach Weatherford who was the catalyst to the comeback after UIC erased an early 5-0 deficit with a seven-run fourth to go up 8-5.
Weatherford’s solo home run with one out in the seventh preceded Burdick’s game-winning homer, and he added an RBI double in the ninth for an insurance run as part of his four-hit afternoon.
“After Z hit his, it was like ‘all right, now it’s my turn to do something,” Burdick said.
The Raiders outscored their three opponents 31-12 in the tournament, winning their first two games easily before surviving the wild championship game.
Wright State scored five runs in the first inning to jump out to an early lead, but UIC got seven in the fourth via three extra-base hits, four walks, two WSU errors and a hit batter.
“I brought the guys up after that and said ‘If you thought this was going to be easy, you’re crazy,’” WSU coach Jeff Mercer said. “That got a little bit of a laugh and a smile, and I said, ‘We’re going to be fine. We’re going to be fine because we’re the better team and we’re more prepared and we’re tough as hell. We’re going to keep coming and keep chugging along and we did just that.”
The Raiders got an RBI single by Zane Harris in the fourth to make it 8-6 and closed within 8-7 on a Seth Gray RBI single in the bottom of the sixth, but UIC’s Aaron Ackerman led off the seventh with a solo home run to push the lead back to two.
Then Weatherford and Burdick struck.
“When you’ve got superstar players that are able to go out there and compete like crazy, you keep putting the bat in their hand and they’re eventually going to find a way to come through for you,” said Mercer, the HL Coach of the Year. “It was the first time we’ve shown that resiliency. We’ve done it every day all year, and we did it again today. I expected that from them.”
After Burdick gave WSU the lead, Daniel Kreuzer retired UIC in order in the eighth, and staff ace Ryan Weiss, who started Thursday’s tournament opener, nailed down the save with a perfect ninth to set off the celebration.
In addition to Burdick and Weatherford, HL Player of the Year Gabe Snyder also had a big day, going 4 for 4 with two runs scored, an RBI and a stolen base.
Jeremy Randolph earned the win in relief after bouncing back from a rough start that saw him walk the first three batters he faced in UIC’s seven-run fourth.
Weatherford somehow was omitted from the all-tournament team despite hitting .462 (6 for 13) with six RBIs, three runs scored and two stolen bases.
The six RBIs were the most of any player, and his six hits and one home run were tied for the most, while his 10 total bases were one shy of the tournament lead.
Published: Saturday, May 26, 2018 @ 11:26 AM
HUBER HEIGHTS — Zarik Brown was walking near the podium next to the Wayne High School track Friday night when his teammate Joel Craig turned around and said, “You’re so loud over there.”
Brown just smiled. The four medals clanging around his neck were making all the noise. But not as much noise as Brown and his Wayne teammates made at the Division I regional. The Warriors won their eighth regional title and first since 2012 on the legs of Brown, Justin Harris, two relay teams and Craig, the shot put champion.
“(Friday) was one of their best efforts of the year and we’re peaking at the right time,” said longtime Wayne coach Mike Fernandez.
» PHOTO GALLERY: D-I regional track and field at Wayne
Harris and Brown, both juniors, will compete in four events at next weekend’s state meet at Ohio State as will Springfield sprinter and long jumper Quincy Scott. Wayne will try to add an outdoor team title to the indoor title they won earlier this year.
Harris won the 110-meter hurdles (14.13) and the 300 hurdles (37.61), denying runner-up Joshua Byars-Mason of Trotwood-Madison in both races.
“It was a pretty good day overall,” Harris said. “I should be dropping more times coming into the state meet, so I feel good coming into next week.”
»NO JOKE: Northwestern teammates are a 1-3 punch
»REGIONAL TRACK: “It’s all about moving on”
Brown and Scott raced each other to the finish three times. Scott won the 100 (10.80) and Brown was second (10.86). Brown won the 200 (21.31) and Scott was runner-up (21.61). They ran anchor in the 400 relay and Wayne’s team of Jaden Roberts, Diante Lesperance, Harris and Brown (41.69) held off runner-up Springfield.
“It really pushes me to go to my max,” Brown said of his races against Scott. “Every meet we see each other we know it’s going to be tough. We usually end up PR’ing a lot.”
»IT’S A RECORD: Lakota East flash passes mark that stood since 1990
»PHOTO GALLERY: D-I district track at Wayne
The race for the team title was completed (Wayne 83, Centerville 68, Springfield 41) in the 4x400 relay. Wayne’s team of Harris, Davontae McKee, Lucas Houk and Brown won (3:17.90) and Centerville was third.
“The fours, they call it a man’s race, so you gotta finish it through all the way,” Harris said. “I love the 400.”
So does Brown. He took the baton for the last leg in fourth place and started to gain ground immediately.
“That’s his best race, and the irony is I took him out of the open 400 because I needed him for the 4x400, 200, 4x100 and 100,” said Fernandez, who made that decision to maximize team points. “Our goal is to see if we can win next week as a team.”
»RELATED: Butler making surprise D-I baseball run
Craig will be a big part of that effort. He won the shot put (56-0.25). His finished seventh at state last year at 56-11.5.
“I know I’ve got way more energy in my body,” said Craig, who also placed fifth in discus. . “I’ve been practicing for it, I’ve been wanting it, I’ve been thirsty, I’ve been hungry, I’m going to get it.”
Wayne will also be represented in the girls meet by Taylor Robertson and the 400 relay. Robertson placed second in the long jump and fourth in pole vault.
»OHSAA: No more stacking teams
Beavercreek sophomore Eileen Yang won her second regional pole vault title (12-4). She placed ninth at state last year.
“Last year’s regionals I was kind of a nervous wreck and pacing a lot and breathing really hard,” she said. “This year I got used to it and it was familiar territory because I practice here a lot.”
Troy sophomore Lenea Browder won the discus (149-2) to go with her runner-up shot put finish on Wednesday.
“I did not imagine coming in my freshman year doing it and then my sophomore year doing so much better,” Browder said. “This has been truly a blessing. I’m so happy and I’m so thankful.”
Centerville senior Andrew Craig won the 800 to return to state, where he placed fourth last year. Miamisburg senior Jason Hubbard won the high jump (6-7).
»RELATED: D-I baseball sectional photo gallery
• Minster won four events, including a distance sweep by Emma Watcke, to win the girls team title in the D-III regional at Troy’s Memorial Stadium on Friday, 85-60 over runner-up Columbus Grove.
A sophomore, Watcke placed first in the 1600 (5:01.59) and followed that with a win in the 3200 (11:13.08). Also winning for the Wildcats on Friday was jnior Madeline Magoto in the 800 (2:16.73).
Minster added seconds in the 4x400 relay and senior Grace Butler in the pole vault. On Wednesday, Minster won the 4x800 relay (9:25.32).
Published: Friday, May 25, 2018 @ 7:59 PM
MASON — The goal for the Chaminade Julienne baseball team ever since it walked off the field at Huntington Park last June was to earn another chance to play for the state championship.
Last winter, in the weight room at the high school, the Eagles kept track of how many days remained until they would get the chance.
"They had a board in there, and they had a countdown," CJ coach Mike Barhorst said. "It was 78 or 80 days or whatever when we started it."
» PHOTOS: CJ vs. CHCA
On Friday before a Division II regional championship game against Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy, Barhorst reminded them of the countdown.
"One day left until we make it to Huntington," Barhorst said.
The Eagles really have to wait another week, but after beating CHCA 5-4 at Mason High School, they will get the chance to avenge that 4-0 loss to Tallmadge in the state title game, and this time, Tallmadge will be opponent in the semifinals. The teams play at 7 p.m. Friday in Columbus.
The other state semifinal in Division II will pit Circleville against Wapakoneta or Ontario, who play their regional final at 1 p.m. Sunday.
Tallmadge beat Canfield 17-0 on Friday to win its regional. Chaminade Julienne didn't have quite the same easy night. For the second straight day, it experienced a dramatic seventh inning in Mason.
The Eagles gave up a game-tying run to Columbus Bishop Hartley in the top of the seventh inning Thursday before winning the regional semifinal on a walk-off single by Sebastian Gongora in the bottom of the inning. This time, after scoring two runs in the bottom of the sixth on a throwing error, CJ had a 5-2 lead entering the seventh.
Nick Wissman walked the lead-off batter but then struck out the next two batters. After another walk, CHCA’s Lucas Rotello doubled to left field, scoring two runs.
With the tying run on second, however, Wissman got a groundout to second baseman A.J. Solomon to end the game.
“With a three-run lead, I thought we were going to be in pretty good shape, and then the next thing you know ...,” Barhorst said. “I had a lot of confidence Nick was going to get out of that, but it’s a little too close for comfort.”
Wissman took over in the sixth inning after five solid innings by Gongora, who struck out four and allowed two earned runs. Wissman retired the side in order in the sixth and earned the save in the seventh.
“Sebastian didn’t have his breaking ball early on, but he was still fighting through with his fastball and making good pitches,” Barhorst said. “Nick came in, and I kind of wanted to change things up. I didn’t want to give them another look at Sebastian just in case they started figuring him out. Just to change their view a little bit, I brought in the right-hander, throwing a little harder. It worked out.”
Chaminade Julienne fell behind early for the second straight day but didn’t trail for long. Ryan Peltier hit a solo home run in the bottom of the first to tie the game.
“We gave them that one run in the first inning on another error,” Peltier said. “I watched a ball go by and was expecting fastball. I hopped on it and let it fly.”
» REGIONAL TRACK: Northwestern takes two of top three spots in discus
In the second inning, Chaminade Julienne took a 3-1 lead. A single by David Ernst scored Solomon. A double by Ben Thomas scored Ernst.
Chaminade Julienne had chances to extend the lead in the next three innings, stranding a total of eight runners and leaving the bases loaded in the fourth and fifth.
In the sixth, Andrew Simones and Peltier walked to lead off the inning. Wissman put down a sacrifice bunt, and the catcher threw the ball past first base, allowing two runs to score as CJ extended its lead to 5-2. It needed both runs to earn its second straight trip to Columbus.
“We wanted to get back,” Peltier said. “We knew we had the team to get back. We just had to take it game by game.”
Chaminade Julienne advances to face Tallmadge in state semifinals at 7 p.m. Friday in Columbus. Tallmadge best CJ in title game a year ago. @cjeaglesBB @BarhorstMike @daytonsports @MarcPendleton pic.twitter.com/MydfHIc2NW— David Jablonski (@DavidPJablonski) May 25, 2018
Back in the second, David Ernst drove in the first run for CJ and scored the second run. pic.twitter.com/zSRaXdYTLp— David Jablonski (@DavidPJablonski) May 25, 2018
Ryan Peltier homers for CJ, tying CHCA 1-1 in first. pic.twitter.com/S4p1rcEuDd— David Jablonski (@DavidPJablonski) May 25, 2018