When Huron made it to the regional tournament in 2002, the Tigers relied on one star pitcher to carry the team.
This time, three Huron pitchers combined to shut out Sandusky Bay Conference rival Edison in a Division III district championship game, as the Tigers ran away with a 10-0 victory in six innings Saturday afternoon at Heidelberg University.
Huron (20-7) — ranked No. 25 in the state coaches poll — advanced to play No. 21 Millbury Lake (26-3) at 2 p.m Thursday in a regional semifinal at Elida.
No. 11 Edison finished the season with a 19-8 record.
It is believed to be the first time in area history a school reached the regionals in football, boys basketball and baseball in the same season. The Tiger football team lost in the regional championship to Coldwater, while the basketball team fell to Ottawa-Glandorf in a regional semifinal.
“I was an assistant coach back in 2001 and 2002 when we made it to regionals,” Huron coach Sam Hohler said. “Back then we had Matt Maloney, just a dominant pitcher and a dominant player. He basically led us those two years.
“With these guys, if you look at our team makeup, it’s all about team chemistry,” he added. “One through nine, all out batters hit over .300. They play together so well, they just stick together, and they just get through adversity with ease.”
Huron pitcher Jack Hufnagle found trouble in the bottom of the first inning. After retiring the first two batters, Hufnagle loaded the bases on three straight walks. But the Tiger thrower escaped the inning by striking out Clay Cooper.
With two outs in the bottom of the second, Hufnagle put two men on base by allowing a single to Owen Moyer, and hitting Chris Smith. But the Tigers kept the Chargers off the field by forcing Austin Utter to fly out to left field to end the inning.
“They walked the bases loaded in the first inning, we had two guys on in the second inning,” Chargers coach Sean Hoover said, “But we just couldn’t come up with hits when we needed to break the ice so we could sit back and relax. They made some good pitches. When you have opportunities in tournament games against good teams, you got to be able to take advantage.”
Huron got to Edison pitcher Adam Wolf in the top of the third. Hufnagle hit an infield grounder that bounced into the outfield to score Matt Dewey. Zach Souter added an RBI single to center field to bring the lead to 2-0.
Kyle Kovach took over on the mound for the Tigers in the bottom of the fourth and struck out all three batters to retire the side in order. Kovach had four strikeouts in two innings for Huron.
With Adam Wroblewski on the mound for the Chargers in the top of the fifth, Tommy Bogden hit a double to right-center to increase the lead to 4-0 in favor of the Tigers. Andrew Dowell was walked and Nick Mix hit a single to load the bases. Kovach was unable to hit a ball in play, but a run scored when he fouled out near the right field line to give the Tigers a five-run lead.
Dewey got things started for Huron in the top of the sixth by hitting an infield grounder and beating the throw to first base. After several wild pitches, Dewey was on third base and able to score during Keegan Bollenbacher’s at-bat. With two outs, Souter and Bogden hit back-to-back singles to put two men on base. Wroblewski walked Dowell to load the bases.
Chris Smith took over on the mound for the Chargers, as Mix hit a two-run single to left field to increase the lead to 8-0. Kovach loaded the bases once again with a hit to right field. Grant Ferrell made it a 10-0 game when he got on base with a single, Huron’s 12th and final hit of the game.
Smith got out of the inning by forcing Dewey to fly out in right field.
“We made solid contact on a few plays and just got on a roll there,” Hohler said. “We kept moving runners around and we were able to score all those runs that really put it away.”
Bogden took over on the mound for Huron and was able to retire the side on three straight groundouts to secure the 10-0 victory for the Tigers in six innings.
Hufnagle, Kovach and Bogden held the Chargers to just two hits in the game.
“They go out there and they just throw strikes,” Hoover said. “We haven’t been centering the ball as much lately as we were earlier in the season. But their pitchers go out, they throw strikes, they locate pitches well, and they have a good defense playing behind them.”
The loss for the Chargers ends the careers of their senior players.
“We’re losing eight great seniors,” Hoover said. “They’re guys who were willing to come in and put in extra time, a lot of extra effort to make themselves better. In the offseason, on Sundays, really any time you asked them to, they were out playing and trying to get better and working hard. They’re a great group of kids and we’re going to miss them.”