Heath opportunistic in 3-1 title win over Flyers


AKRON — Heath pitcher Wyatt Binckley seemed to have Lake batters mesmerized with his combination of fastballs and breaking pitches in their Division III state championship game at Canal Park Sunday.

His fastballs were hitting close to 85 mile-per-hour, but even worse, his breaking pitches were getting across the plate.

It’s a problem opponents have had all season as Binckley ran his record to 9-0, leading the Bulldogs to a 3-1 state championship victory over the Flyers.

“He threw multiple pitches for a strike and when we barreled the ball up we hit it right at them and we didn’t make plays, and that is baseball,” Lake third-year baseball coach Casey Witt said.

Lake junior Drew Tajblik added, “I thought we could have hit it a little bit better today, but you know, that is baseball. Every day has its highs and lows and this was not our day.”

It is Heath’s third state championship, and the first time Lake has reached the state final in four trips to the state tournament. The No. 2-ranked Bulldogs completed a 28-2 season, while the No. 4 Flyers close out at 28-5.

Binckley struck out five, walked two, allowed five hits and no earned runs while throwing 93 pitches over seven innings, including 60 strikes, to 28 Lake batters.

Lake senior pitcher Ryan Wagner (9-4) was nearly as effective, striking out three, walking two, allowing four hits and out of three runs scored, only two were earned.

On the mound for six innings, Wagner threw 90 pitches, including 54 strikes, to 25 batters. When he closed out the sixth by striking out Binckley, he celebrated with a fist-pump because it meant the Flyers still had one more shot, being down two runs heading into the seventh.

Lake junior pitcher Jay Blazevich did his part in the seventh by shutting out the Bulldogs, thanks in part to a double play on a sacrifice bunt attempt after Heath’s Conner Toomey led off with an infield single.

However, Binckley had his say in the bottom of the seventh by sending down the Flyers one-two-three to secure the state title.

Heath scored all three of their runs in the first two innings with small ball and taking advantage of two errors.

“They executed small ball, and a couple of their balls that weren’t on contact, they fell, and that wasn’t the case for us. Like I’ve said, that is just baseball,” Witt said.

After that, Wagner and Blazevich shut out the Bulldogs the final five innings, plus Lake’s offense matched Heath’s with five hits apiece, but the Flyers stranded two more baserunners and they had two more thrown out on the basepaths.

The Flyers had their chances, getting seven runners into scoring position, but only producing one run. Part of that was the result of two baserunners getting caught on the basepaths in the third inning, which did produce the lone run.

Lake sophomore Gavin Kohlhofer led off with a walk and scored when Wagner hit into a fielder’s choice, but the Flyers had two other runners get into scoring position, and both were thrown out trying to reach third on separate plays.

Despite the aggressive baserunning that backfired, Witt said that is what the Flyers do.

“It’s what we’ve done all year and we weren’t going to change it the last game. That would have done more harm than good,” Witt said.

Wagner and Tajblik said the Flyers were confident after their 4-1 semifinal victory over Minford on Saturday. Both felt the team was in a good place, Sunday even though it appeared that nerves got the best of them early in the game.

“So we had a great day yesterday,” Tajblik said. “We came out here feeling all the confidence in the world.”

Wagner added, “The mood coming into the game was the same. We were going to battle as much as we could. We got out there, they got up 3-0 on us and then we started to chip away a little bit.

“But in the end we just didn’t get the clutch moments and get our hits when we needed them and get runs when we really needed it and just fell short.”

As the starting pitcher, Wagner said he felt pressured when Heath was scoring despite not hitting any better than the Flyers.

“It was a little frustrating. I felt like they were hitting it more, but when I looked up at the scoreboard it was like four hits or something,” Wagner said. “Taking that in it was pretty good because I know they weren’t really doing much offensively and they were still scoring, so it really didn’t make much sense. I had to buckle down and try to get comfortable again.”

Tajblik and Wagner credited Heath for executing when the Flyers did not.

“That’s a very good team — they are a really good team,” Tajblilk said. “They can hit the ball, they field it — that is baseball. They are a really good team and we didn’t play our best today.”

Wagner added, “They played a great game. I mean, they hit the ball when they really needed to. They were really aggressive on the basepaths and they didn’t really make many mistakes on the field. When you do that, you are bound to win a ballgame.”

Getting base hits for the Flyers were Blazevich, Wagner, sophomore Jack Sobczak and seniors Aiden Young and Connor Eck. Kohlhofer reached twice on walks and at catcher, Kohlhofer threw out one Heath baserunner trying to steal second.

Tannar Patterson and Toomey were both 2-for-3 to lead the Bulldogs and Riley Baum had a base hit. Patterson, Baum, and Connor Corbett had one RBI each, Corbett had a sacrifice fly, and Kaden Green reached after getting hit by a pitch.

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