Tajblik delivers Flyers to state championship game

0

AKRON — In a battle between two schools located 211 miles apart — one near the shores of Lake Erie and the other near the banks of the Ohio River, it was Lake junior pitcher Drew Tajblik who separated them on the baseball field.

Tajblik, committed to the University of Toledo, pitched a four-hit shutout as the Flyers defeated Minford, 4-0, in a Division III state semifinal Saturday at Canal Park, home of the Akron RubberDucks, the Double A affiliate of the Cleveland Guardians.

In the championship, Lake (28-4), ranked fourth in the state, will face No. 2 Heath (27-2), 4-3 winners in eight innings in the other semifinal over No. 20 Apple Creek Waynedale (23-8), the two-time defending state champion. The Bulldogs and Flyers will face off at 4 p.m. Sunday at Canal Park for the state championship.

Tajblik, who improved his win-loss mark to a school record 12-0, struck out seven and walked one while throwing 104 pitches, including 65 strikes, to 27 batters. He did not allow an extra base hit.

“My outing felt pretty good,” Tajblik said. “I threw the ball really hard, my curveball was good, my change-up was working, too.

“I worked on it all day yesterday and my change-up felt great today. I kept the hitters off balance and I had a good defense behind me, so without them I couldn’t have been here.”

Minford did not advance a runner beyond second base until the seventh inning, and only had three runners reach scoring position.

“Drew has been our guy all year,” Lake coach Casey Witt said. “You’ve got to be really good all year to win 12 high school baseball games in Ohio. Drew has been an example of that.

“We have the utmost confidence that Drew is going to keep us in a game with anybody in the state. He was terrific today.”

That does not mean that Tajblik did not have his share of adversity to deal with. Minford’s lead-off hitter, senior Carson Cronin, took the first pitch of the game and lined a base hit to center field.

It did not seem to bother Tajblik, who struck out the next two hitters and got the clean-up hitter, senior Rhyan Queen, to ground out to Lake sophomore shortstop Jack Sobczak.

“You just keep pitching — that’s how you are,” Tajblik said.

In the fourth inning, Tajblik issued his only walk to Queen with one out, which prompted a quick trip to the mound by Lake coach Casey Witt to settle him down.

“He was just slowing me down,” Tajblik said. “He thought I was rushing too much and he wanted me to calm down and get back to my rhythm, and that’s how I was.”

Witt added, “Drew and I have a really, really good relationship. You know, our personalities are similar.

“So sometimes Drew needs a little bit of tough love and Drew just needs sometimes to be slowed down and that’s really all it was. He gets that adrenaline pumping and he goes a little faster than he needs to. After that, he was good to go.”

After Tajblik put down the Falcons in order in the bottom of the sixth, including two strikeouts, he motioned to his fans, but said he also wanted to let both teams know that the Flyers were in command.

“That was to both (teams) and to our crowd, just to get some energy,” Tajblik said. “I heard they were giving me crap beforehand so I had to give a little back just to keep it fun.”

In the seventh, Tajblik gave up two base hits and allowed a runner to reach third base for the first time, but he struck out sophomore Max Lauder swinging at a breaking pitch for the game’s final out.

Tajblik played a role at the plate, too, going 2-for-4, and scoring the first run in a three-run third inning after the Flyers had taken a 1-0 lead in the second inning.

Tajblik led off the third with an infield single and stole second, the first of of his two stolen bases. He saw something between the pitcher and catcher and knew it was his chance to go.

“I had a good read off it because I knew that it (the throw)n would be high, so I knew I could make it there because it would stay in the air forever,” Tajblik said.

Lake junior Jay Blazevich, who was 2-for-4, followed with a base hit to right field, advancing Tajblik to third. Tajblik scored when senior Ryan Wagner reached on a fielder’s choice, putting Lake up, 2-0.

Blazevich, after stealing second, scored when Sobczak hit into a grounder to first base, and Wagner scored on a base hit to right field by senior Caleb Tobias.

Tobias, who was 2-for-3, got his first RBI when he doubled to the right-center field gap in the second inning, scoring Sobczak, who reached on a base hit to center field.

Witt said getting the early 1-0, then 4-0 lead was good for everyone, including Tajblik.

“I don’t know that it relaxed me, per se, but when Drew is on the mound we try to play for a couple early. We feel like (if) he gets a couple early, he’s pretty dangerous and a lot easier to play behind,” Witt said.

“So getting that four-run lead, by the time we had gotten into the bottom of the third, I felt like we were good at where we stood.”

The Flyers stole three bases, which is how Witt wants his team to play. Tobias had the team’s only extra base hit, and they tried to take advantage of every opportunity, stranding six baserunners.

“We preached since I got hired three years ago that we want to play aggressive,” Witt said. “That we want to be the aggressor and we want to play our brand of baseball.

“Getting on one baserunner at at a time, stealing bases, and this group, being as athletic as they are, has really bought into that and ti showed today.”

Minford senior pitcher Cam Thacker (10-3) took the loss as the Falcons see their season end at 22-7. Thacker struck out seven, walked two, allowed seven hits and four earned runs over seven innings. He threw 107 pitches, including 74 strikes, to 31 batters.

Cornin led the Falcons at the plate, going 2-for-3, and Thacker and sophomore Carter Frazie had the other hits for Minford.

(Sentinel-Tribune photos by Nicholas Huenefeld)

No posts to display