FINDLAY — With two outs in the bottom of the seventh, Toledo St. John’s hitter Will Nieckarz ended Perrysburg’s season with one swing of the bat Wednesday.
On the first pitch, Nieckarz belted a line drive into left field, plating Declan Loisel for the walk-off winning run to give the Titans a 4-3 Division I district semifinal victory at Liberty-Benton High School.
Loisel, who led off the inning, got on base via a bloop base hit into right field’s nowhere land. He advanced to second base on a sacrifice bunt by Grant Dzierwa and reached third on a grounder, setting up Nieckarz’s game-winner.
“They (Loisel) got the ball down the right field line, and they got the guy over,” Perrysburg coach Dave Hall said. “It doesn’t take much, but we battled, so I’m happy with that.”
St. John’s (18-5-1), the No. 2 team in the district, advances to take on the winner of Clay and defending state champion Sylvania Northview on Friday in the district final at L-B.
St. John’s coach Sam Fischer says his team has been winning and losing games like this all season.
“We were resilient. This group has won a lot of ballgames like that on walk-off situations, and we’ve been walked-off, playing tough, good baseball games,” Fischer said.
“Things seem to want to work against us, but we’ve been staying on it, living on that magic and working forward as a group together and playing the game right.”
Perrysburg’s season ends at 17-12, despite late season heroics, like beating the Division III No. 1-ranked team, Eastwood, 3-2, and avenging an early season loss to Northern Lakes League foe Springfield.
Against the Titans, with the game tied at three runs apiece, Perrysburg had the opportunity to go ahead in the top of the seventh.
Perrysburg had just scored two runs in the top of the sixth to tie the game, plus they had their best hitters coming to the plate in the seventh.
However, St. John’s pitcher Donovan Mattimore got the Yellow Jackets to go down in order.
Mattimore struck out senior Matt Gast swinging on three pitches and got juniors Matt Hubbard and Abram Hire to hit into grounders played well by the Titans shortstop J.P. Wagner and second baseman Ben Zetocha.
“We battled,” Hall said. “We were down and tied it up, and we had three, four, and five (hitters) up and didn’t produce in the seventh.”
In the sixth, Perrysburg junior Quinn Weber reached on a one-out walk, and the Jackets followed by scoring two runs with two outs.
After freshman Brayden Heitmeyer beat out an infield single, Weber scored on sophomore Braxton Mefferd’s base hit to right field, and Heitmeyer scored on junior Trent Bezek’s base hit to left field.
However, Perrysburg had scored just one run in the first five innings, despite leaving six baserunners stranded. Meanwhile, pitcher Matt Hubbard and the Perrysburg defense kept the game close.
“We left some runners out there. I thought Matt pitched well,” Hall said. “I thought we played well, but we left six on early in that game and we could have gotten a base hit there and gotten the lead.”
Hubbard took the loss, striking out four, walking two, and allowing six hits. Only three St. John’s runs were charged to Hubbard because of an error in the fifth that contributed to a run.
Hubbard had the fortune behind Perrysburg junior second baseman Jack Losee’s dive on a hard-hit grounder by Wagner, which saved a base hit.
After diving to the ground, Losee recovered and threw out Kenyon Miller on a force play at second, but Wagner reached on a fielder’s choice and eventually scored on a base hit to center field by Caleb Click.
Bezek led Perrysburg at the plate, going 2-for-4 with an RBI and Losee had the Jackets’ only extra base hit, a double to center field in the second inning, and he scored when Mefferd’s fly ball to right field was misplayed by Dzierwa.
Juniors Brady Zilles and Abram Hire, Hubbard, Heitmeyer, and Mefferd had base hits, Zilles had a sacrifice bunt, and Gast had a stolen base after reaching on a fielder’s choice in the first inning.
For the Titans, Jake Dukate was 2-for-2 with a walk and run, Loisel was 2-for-3 and scored a run, and Nieckarz, Miller, and Caleb Click had base hits.
Dzierwa successfully laid down two sacrifice bunts, both leading to runs, and Nieckarz reached three of four plate appearances, including on a walk and an error.
Mattimore got the win, striking out three, walking two, allowing eight hits, and two earned runs.