ARCHBOLD — Rossford had the bases loaded with one out, trailing by one run in the top of the seventh and seemed to be on the verge of a rally against Toledo Central Catholic in district semifinal baseball Thursday.
However, the Bulldogs were unable to put another run across, falling to the Irish, 3-2, in a Division II district semifinal at Archbold’s Memorial Park.
Central, 14-10 and missing their top two pitchers because of injuries, will play Defiance, 3-0 winners over Bryan, in the district final on Saturday. Rossford sees its season end at 13-11.
“We were shaky at the start and gave up some extra outs, but we battled,” Rossford first-year coach Marc Diels said. “We stayed in the game. Congratulations to Central, they did a nice job, and we came up short.”
The Bulldogs went into the seventh trailing by one run, but they were starting to get to Central sophomore starter Beau Gardner as the first five batters reached base.
The Bulldogs, who were also without two starters, got a lead-off line drive base hit along the right field line by senior Jacob Tuczynski.
Gardner hit the next batter, junior Logan Walder, putting Tuczynski in scoring position, and both Tuczynski and Walder advanced to second and third on Gardner’s wild pitch.
That wild pitch, with senior Brendan Swope at the plate, put the count at 2-and-0, so Central coach Jeff Mielcarek changed pitchers right in the middle of Swope’s at bat.
It didn’t matter much, though, as senior reliever Winston Delp, moving to the mound from third base, completed the walk to Swope and loaded the bases.
Rossford senior Alex Williams belted a grounder up the middle, scoring Tuczynski and Diels waved Walder home to score the tying run, but Central senior center fielder Brian “Bucky” Bishop threw a perfect strike to junior Kyle Wasserman in time to get Walder for the first out and potentially save extra innings.
“The play at the plate there, that kid made a heck of a throw,” Diels said. “I’ll send guys every time with that, but it was a baseball play.”
Bishop also provided the game-winning RBI in the sixth, driving in junior Jaxon Sanchez, who hit a two-out double to the left-center field gap.
Central coach Jeff Mielcarek said Bishop’s plays on offense and defense were the best things the Irish had going for them up that point.
“I just said that hopefully we get to go to a district championship, and it was anything but pretty baseball on our part, but Brian Bishop’s two-out hit in the sixth and them he and Kyle’s play in the seventh, that is good baseball,” MIelcarek said. “Before that, not so much.
“I want to say that is his third or fourth assist from center field. It takes two. It takes a good throw and on a natural surface, Kyle Wasserman behind the plate did a great job of catching before he tagged. Two guys.”
Rossford still runners on base with one out, and junior Drew Knorek singled to right field, but coming around third base to score, Swope slipped, and he scattered back to third, taking away another opportunity.
The Bulldogs still had the bases loaded with one out, but Delp buckled down, getting sophomore Jackson Grimm out looking at three straight strikes and Delp struck out junior Brody Nusbaum on three pitches, the third strike swinging at a breaking pitch.
Swope, a southpaw, pitched a complete game six innings for Rossford, holding Central to six hits while he struck out eight and walked three, plus the Irish scored two unearned runs, one each in the first and fifth innings.
The Bulldogs, with four left-handed batters in the lineup, and five if you include sophomore pinch hitter Quentin Borden, outhit the Irish, 9-6, but three errors contributed to the loss.
For the Bulldogs, Williams, who will play football at Ashland University in the fall (quarterback), was 2-for-3 and drove in both runs.
Grimm was 2-for-4, junior Nick Toddonio doubled in the third and scored in the fifth after reaching on an error, and Tuczynski, Walder, Swope, and Knorek had base hits.
Five of Central’s six hits were by two players — Sanchez was 2-for-3 and reached on a walk and Bishop was 3-for-3, reaching on all four plate appearances, including getting hit by a pitch, and he scored twice and had an RBI.
Senior Cody Markus had the Irish’s only other hit on a bunt single, and senior Grant Tefft reached twice on walks.
Gardner got the win, striking out six, walking none, allowing seven hits and one earned run through six innings. Delp got the save, striking out two, walking one, and allowing two hits and no runs.
Diels said he liked how far his team came this year, including a close 8-7 late season loss to Eastwood (26-2), the NBC champion and No. 1 ranked team in Division III in the final state coaches’ poll.
Diels said four seniors, Tuczynski, Williams, Swope and outfielder and pitcher Brenden Revels were major contributors, and the remaining underclassmen have great potential.
“I’m so proud of my seniors,” Diels said. “Coming in with a new coach, they embraced everything that we wanted to do. I was telling them, ‘I love them.’
“(I was) kind of choked up back there with them because it is the last time that I’ll be able to coach them, but we told the underclassmen, ‘Now, it is your turn to take it to the next level.’
“We’ve got some things in place that we wanted to accomplish, and we are just going to keep going up from there.”