It would have been a shame if this one had gotten away.
Despite a five-hit pitching performance by starter Justin Fulton, St. Paul still had to rally for a run in the bottom of the seventh to squeeze by Bucyrus Wynford, 4-3 in a Division IV district semifinal game on Marion Althouse Field at Colonel Crawford High School.
The Flyers improved to 10-13 overall and won for the sixth time in the last eight games in advancing to the district championship for the second time in program history. St. Paul is back at Colonel Crawford at 5 p.m. today to take on Buckeye Central (21-5), a 6-0 winner over Seneca East in the first game held Thursday.
The Bucks were ranked No. 4 in the final Division IV coaches poll. St. Paul will not have to face Ohio State-bound Sam Shafer, however.
He worked Thursday against the Tigers.
After Wynford (12-12) tied the game at 3-3 with two runs in the top of the seventh, St. Paul came right back in a heavy mist in the bottom of the frame.
The No. 9 batter in the order, Stephen Fondreist started with an infield hit and Ian Welch did his job is sacrificing him down to second.
Wynford coach Gabe Helbert decided to pitch to hard-hitting Isaac Livengood, the same player who doubled off the center-field fence to start a two-out, two-run rally in the fifth.
Livengood rocketed a shot to left and even though pinch-runner Brad Doughty got a late start, he still scored the game-winning run standing up as the left-fielder had trouble getting a hold of the ball.
“I was somewhat surprised they pitched to Isaac,” St. Paul coach Jim Carper said. “But when you have (Joseph) Hinckley and (Alex) Foster waiting in the wings, it is kind of like picking your poison. It’s a tough call sometimes.”
There were strategy calls by both coaches in the form of intentional base-on-balls. Carper asked that Royals power-hitter Adam Hartz be intentionally passed twice, including in the seventh as the tying run. Hartz did score to make it 3-3.
Carper lauded the work of Fulton, his sophomore right-hander.
“He did as I hoped he would, and that was get the curve over and pitch ahead in the count,” Carper said. “He hit his spots, something he has to do to become successful. He knows he is not going to overpower anyone.”
Fulton was pulled in favor of freshman right-hander Hinckley when he walked his first batter with one out and one on in the top of the seventh.
It was touch and go for the next 20 minutes as Wynford hitters found ways of extending the inning. Two infield hits, mostly because of deep infield grass, kept the rally alive. The second hit made it a 3-2 game.
Then, when the Flyer infield had no choice but to settle for a force out at third on still another weakly hit ground ball to the left side, Wynford knotted the game at 3-3. A flyball to center ended the frame.
Foster was involved in the two-run, fifth inning rally.
After Livengood doubled with two outs and Hinckley singled to break a 1-1 tie, Foster was sent down to first intentionally.
This brought up Alaric Newcomer, who promptly rapped a single down the right-field line to make it 3-1 lead for the Flyers.
Carper gambled in trying to extend his lead, sending Foster home on a short passed ball.
There was a huge collision at the plate, but the Wynford catcher was up to the challenge, blocking off Foster with the tag for the third out.
The Flyers scored a run in the second off right-hander Aaron Bishop, using a single to center by Newcomer, stolen base, an infield out and a two-out RBI single by designated-hitter Zack Miller.
Wynford scored in the fourth with a single, wild pitch and single to left by Jerod Butler.
Is there another 2005 in the making?
That’s the year the Flyers made it to the regional championship before falling to Dalton, 11-4.
“They play these games for a reason,” Carper said. “We are certainly peaking at the right time, both on offense and on the mound. Isaac Livengood is on fire at the plate. He is hitting over .400.
“A lot of guys are really hungry up there of late, jumping on first pitches, but I am not crazy about that.”
Helbert said that Fulton had Wynford hitters off-balance.