Bobcats nip Irish, 6-5, to advance to final


Advancing to Friday’s section final wasn’t easy for the Bowling Green baseball team.

BG withstood a seventh-inning rally by a tough Toledo Central Catholic squad on Wednesday en route to a 6-5 victory at Bobcat Field. BG will now play on the road against No. 2 seed Napoleon for the right to advance to the district semifinals.

BG had built a 6-0 lead after three innings of play against CC, only to see the Fighting Irish chip away at the Bobcats’ advantage, including three tallies in the seventh before an out was even recorded.

A bases-loaded sacrifice fly to fairly deep center by left fielder Josh Floyd off senior reliever Matthew Brinkman cut BG’s lead to one run. The other Irish base runners moved into scoring position on the play.

The next hitter, pitcher Beau Gardner, then hit a comebacker to Brinkman at the mound. Brinkman caught designated hitter Josh Rahe, who singled in the inning’s first run, halfway down the third baseline and then tossed the ball to junior catcher Carter Earl to get Rahe at the plate.

Rahe came in spikes high and cut Earl on the knee. Earl stayed in to finish the game, but his knee did require stitches later that evening.

With runners at the corners, Brinkman got right fielder Madden Bernal on a soft pop up to senior shortstop Jack Brown to end the game.

Brinkman earned the save (BG’s first of the year), retiring all three batters he faced on six pitches.

Bobcat starting hurler Logan Neifer (4-4) earned the win. He worked three batters into the seventh before being relieved by senior Drake Joseph. Neifer allowed five hits, including two of the infield variety. He struck out three, walked five, and hit a batter. All five runs (earned) were charged to his ledger.

BG got on the board in the first with an unearned run. Junior right fielder Rhett Winger opened the game reaching on an error by the shortstop. Winger then stole second and took third on a ground out to second. He then scored on Brown’s RBI grounder to second.

In the next frame, the Bobcats plated four (two earned) after a double-play ball erased the base paths. Earl reached on an infield hit up the middle that the shortstop knocked down with a sliding attempt. Senior center fielder Brent Boston then sent a shallow fly to right center that the center fielder couldn’t secure on a diving attempt. Earl scored all the way from first on the play.

Boston then stole second and came home on senior left fielder Caleb Kunstmann’s bounder through the hole to left. Winger then was hit by the pitch to put two on. Junior second baseman Joey Kline then struck out on a pitch in the dirt, but the catcher’s high throw into right field trying to complete the putout scored both Kunstmann and Winger. Kline was stranded at third to end the inning.

BG bumped its advantage to 6-0 in the third on Neifer’s sacrifice fly to center, scoring senior first baseman Will Brose, who led off the frame with a line single to right. Brose took third on consecutive wild pitches with Neifer at the dish. The RBI was Neifer’s team-best 24th of the campaign.

The Bobcats threatened for more in the fourth after Kline and Brown both singled, and Brose reached on an error by the second baseman — all with two outs. However, BG left the bases loaded.

CC broke its scoring drought in the fifth, plating two on a walk, hit batter, and two singles. Rahe’s bases-loaded, one-out RBI grounder to first made it 6-1. Catcher Gavin Eckhart’s hard bounder to center then cut BG’s lead to four. Neifer got left fielder Josh Floyd to pop out to third to end the stanza.

Neifer retired the Irish in order in the sixth before allowing the first three hitters to reach in the seventh on a half-swing infield hit to short and two walks. He threw 92 pitches before exiting the game.

The bottom third of BG’s lineup (Earl-2, Boston-1, Kunstmann-1) collected four of the team’s seven hits, stole two bases (Earl & Boston), and scored half of the Bobcat runs (one each).

BG’s outfield play shined again, highlighted by Boston collecting another assist in doubling off a runner at first on a hit-and-run fly out to center. Kunstmann made a diving catch in left in on a line drive to end the third with two runners on. Winger held a runner from scoring from third with his strike to the plate following his putout in right with the bases loaded.

Winger added to his team-leading stolen-base total with two thefts. He now has 24 in 26 attempts. He also reached base three times (two via HBP) and scored twice, increasing his team-high total to 33.

Shortstop Draden Wardrop had half of CC’s hit total — all singles. He also scored two of the Irish runs. Eckhart drove in two runs for CC, including a bases-loaded walk in the seventh that made the score 6-4.

Gardner took the loss for the Irish. He allowed just three earned runs in his six innings of work. He fanned two, walked none, but did hit two batters, one of which scored. Gardner threw 102 pitches.

BG, 14-12 overall, will host Anthony Wayne on Thursday to conclude Northern Lakes League play. First pitch is set for 5 p.m.

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