Bowling Green High School baseball senior Michael Becker came through in district finals Sunday, getting a game-winning single to overcome Findlay 3-2 and win a district championship.
The win continues the Bobcats’ magical run that started back on May 12 with a victory over state-ranked Anthony Wayne.
“After that win against Anthony Wayne at their place in the regular season, these guys believe that they are every bit as good as everybody else,” Bowling Green head coach Fred Riggs said. “The energy has changed, it is amazing and I love every one of them. It is fun to watch when everyone is playing for each other and not for themselves.”
Becker, who hits No. 8 in the lineup for the Bobcats and struck out earlier in the game, knew the magnitude of the situation and capitalized on it.
“After I struck out earlier in the game, one of my coaches told me the situation wasn’t big enough yet,” Becker said. “I got up in the bottom of the eighth and I got it done. It was awesome.”
Senior Mason West started on the mound for the Bobcats and threw two scoreless innings to begin the game.
The Bobcats were held scoreless in the first inning, but in the second, they threatened early with a Cody Thompson lead-off single. Thompson was thrown out at second on a fielder’s choice grounder from Kolin Atwood, and Nate Kress followed that up with a single of his own.
A wild pitch moved both runners into scoring position and Brayden Clauson drove Atwood in with a single to right to give the Bobcats a 1-0 lead.
After two fairly harmless innings to start the game for Findlay at the plate, the Trojans threatened immediately in the third. They had a walk to begin the inning and an error on the attempt to get the runner stealing second, giving them a man on third with no outs.
West was able to work out of it, getting the next hitter to ground out and the two after that both via strikeout.
After a quiet third inning for the Bobcats, the Trojans threatened again in the fourth, getting a runner on second with no outs. West got the next two, looking primed to work out of danger again, but a walk and an error loaded the bases.
This time the Trojans cashed in, as Hunter Kayser blooped a single into center field that brought in two runners and gave Findlay their first lead of the game.
The Bobcats immediately answered back, as Kress walked to start off the bottom of the inning and eventually came around thanks to a two-out base knock for West, who helped himself out, hitting in the ninth spot in the order.
For the third straight inning, in a close ballgame, the Trojans threatened again getting runners on first and second, this time with two outs. But West worked his way out of it striking out the final hitter of the inning to keep the game tied.
Neither team really threatened again until the bottom of the sixth inning, when Kress singled, Clauson walked and Michael Becker bunted for a single to give the Bobcats bases loaded with one out. Seth Sleasman was on the mound for the Trojans and despite a battle at the plate with West, struck out the next two hitters to keep the game tied at two.
In the top of the next inning, the Trojans singled to begin the inning and bunted him over to second to have a runner in scoring position with one out. Cayden Seither, who replaced West in the sixth inning, struck out the second out and the Bobcats got out of the inning after Findlay tried to steal third and senior catcher Ryan Jackson nailed the runner.
The Trojans threatened again, loading the bases in the top of the eighth inning with two outs, but again Seither was able to work out of it.
The Bowling Green half of the eighth inning started with a walk from Atwood and a bunt single from Kress. Clauson bunted again getting the two runners in scoring position and Becker handled the rest.
In close games, execution of little details is important and that is something that has been working for the Bobcats in this tournament run.
“A lot of good bunts today and the execution on the basepaths can plague us sometimes, but today they did well and we came through in the clutch today,” Riggs said.
Seither received the win on the mound for the Bobcats, going three innings and giving up no runs on five hits, a strikeout and a walk. West started the game and went five innings giving up two runs (none earned) on three hits, five strikeouts and three walks.
At the plate the Bobcats were led by Kress who reached base four times in the game, going 3-for-3 with a walk and a run scored. The hero of the game, Becker went 2-for-4 with an RBI. Clauson and West each also had one RBI as well.
All three RBIs for the Bobcats in the game came from the bottom three batters in the Bobcat’s order. The top three in the lineup saw just one hit, a two-out triple from Eli Brown.
“We’ve had confidence in the bottom of the lineup all year long,” Riggs said. “The top of the lineup was real cold today, and the bottom of the lineup came up clutch. We know that every one of them are capable. … I talk about belief and they believe that they can win and it shows.”
The Bobcats move on to regional semifinals at Bowling Green State University’s Steller Field Thursday at 5 p.m. The Bobcats made regionals in 2019 in Division II and are excited to be headed back.
“I expect it to be every bit as difficult if not more going to the regional in Division I. But we are ready and I’ve told the boys all year that we could care less who is in that other dugout. If we play our game, we are capable of beating anybody,” Riggs said.
Every bit of the confidence stems back to their regular season win against Anthony Wayne, and the Bobcats are hoping that confidence can carry them through regionals next week.
“It started a rally,” Becker said. “I think we’ve lost two games since we won that game against Anthony Wayne. It sparked something in us, and we’re not done.”