Perrysburg falls, 1-0, in state semifinal pitchers’ duel


AKRON — In a pitchers’ duel, Mason defeated Perrysburg, 1-0, in a Division I state semifinal Friday at Canal Park, home of the Akron RubberDucks, the Cleveland Guardians Double-A affiliate.

Perrysburg saw its season end at 25-8, while Mason (27-6) advances to Sunday’s state championship game against Twinsburg (24-5), which defeated Olentangy Berlin (27-4), 4-1, in the other semifinal.

“I mean, it really hurts,” Perrysburg senior pitcher Matt Hubbard said. “We were there, we had a chance to win, but we just couldn’t pull it off. It is going to stink for a little bit.”

Mason’s Indiana University-bound senior pitcher Jake Hanley, whose fastball was topping out at 93 miles per hour, was Perrysburg’s biggest nemesis.

Hanley, who may get drafted by Major League Baseball before he even arrives on campus at IU, had a no-hitter going into the fifth inning when Perrysburg junior Braxton Mefferd led off by lining a base hit to center field.

Hanley struck out 11, walked four, and threw 102 pitches in tossing a complete-game one-hit shutout, facing 26 batters over seven innings.

It wasn’t just Hanley’s velocity, but also his timing on his breaking ball pitches, which were 20 miles-per-hour slower, falling into the low 70s.

“We didn’t think he’d throw the breaking balls that well,” Perrysburg coach Dave Hall said. “They did a really good job with our hitters figuring out who was sitting fastball.

“They threw nothing but hooks, then when we set up with the guys trying to hit hooks, they threw the fastball by us. They did a good job with us, you know, and I think we did a good job with them.”

Hanley was also the difference at the plate — it was his RBI double over the reach of Perrysburg senior right fielder Brady Zilles that scored senior infielder Alex Koelling for the only run of the game in the top of the seventh inning.

Until that time, the University of Toledo-bound Hubbard had done to Mason what Hanley did to the Yellow Jackets — pitched six shutout innings and he was one pitch away from closing a scoreless seventh inning.

Hubbard struck out 10, walked three, allowed five hits and one run over seven innings while throwing 99 pitches to 30 batters. It was the kind of pitcher’s duel that classic baseball enthusiasts can only dream about.

“We knew their kid is really good and I knew Hubbard is really good,” Hall said. “I thought he could do that to them. He’s just a warrior. You’ve seen him in three sports.

“There is not another kid I’d want out there. He pitched his heart out. We could won that for him just as easy as anything.”

In the top of the seventh, Hubbard got senior outfielder Casey Doner to fly out to center field and he struck out senior outfielder Brad Hart, but gave Koelling a free pass to set up the showdown between himself and Hanley.

Hubbard had Hanley, the Ohio High School Baseball Coaches Association Division I Player of the Year, down to his final strike on a one-and-two count.

At that point, Hubbard tried to get Hanley to swing at a breaking pitch, but instead Hanley hit a long screamer that would have been a home run in any typical high school field, but not in a professional ballpark.

“We were thinking backdoor slider,” Hubbard said. “We didn’t want to give him a fastball, anything up. I just missed a little, gave it a little bit down the middle and he pulled it. He did what he does. He is a great player.

“I knew whoever scored first is going to win the game. He just got a hold of one. It was fun going back and forth with it. It was a good game.”

Perrysburg had their chances on offense, despite getting just one hit. In four separate innings the Yellow Jackets had a runner in scoring position, but could not plate a run. This time, it was the Jackets who were victims of bad timing, unlike in their other tournament wins.

“Hubby was just a warrior. We over played two errors,” Hall said. “We got guys on even without getting base hits. We still had a chance to win this thing.

“We knew going in it was going to be a one-run ballgame one way or the other. You know, I thought we played and we left it all on the field. We played as good as we could play. We were one hit away three different times from taking the lead.”

Three times sophomore Brayden Heitmeyer reached on a walk and stole second base, but he was stranded at second twice, and in the second inning he advanced to third on a wild pitch, but unable to find a path to home plate.

Instead, Mason senior shortstop Anthony Sulek made a nice stop on a grounder that was hit deep in the hole by Perrysburg senior Abram Hire, then Sulek made the long throw to get Hire out. Sulek doesn’t make that stop, or Hire beats the throw, and Heitmeyer would have scored.

It was one of several highlight defensive plays by the Comets, but Perrysburg had its share, too, including a run-saving diving catch by junior left fielder Landon Winters in the fifth inning.

Hall says he will remember the nine seniors on the team who have left their legacy by becoming the third Perrysburg team to reach the state tournament, following the 2003 and 2011 teams.

“We had nine great seniors that led this team, the team stayed together,” Hall said. “I told the kids that a legacy was made.

“There were guys back (in Akron) from 2003. About three of them came and saw me before the game, and guys from the ‘11 team, and 20 years from now they are going to remember themselves as brothers, remember how great a run this was, and what high school baseball and high school sports are all about.”

Hubbard, who will leave his eight classmates to beome a UT Rocket, added, “Obviously we are a brotherhood. We’ve played for so long together.

“I’m positive we are going to remember this for a while. It was really fun playing with these guys. It’s something we are going to remember.”

(Sentinel-Tribune photos by Nicholas Huenefeld)

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