DEFIANCE — After getting one run in the top of the first, Otsego baseball was shut down in Division III District Finals, falling 6-1 to Archbold on Saturday.
The Knights finish the season at 19-12 and with a district runner-up trophy.
“I told our guys that we have nothing to be ashamed of. Coming into the year we really had two guys that had any varsity experience. We started the year as a JV team and had some struggles, but we figured it out. To get to this point, I am just incredibly proud of our guys,” Otsego head coach Chase Welker said.
The Knights were able to get a run right away in the first inning as senior Noah Dzierwa led off the game with a single. After stealing second, his brother Joseph Dzierwa moved him over and then on the first pitch to Ryan Gray, Dzierwa stole home, getting the first run of the game for the Knights.
Noah Dzierwa was one of the best hitters in the NBC this season, hitting over .430 and going 2-for-3 on the day with the only run scored for the Knights.
“That is what he gives us every day. He is always going to give us good at-bats and make good contact with the ball. What he added to this team outside of his play on the field is irreplaceable and you can’t put a price tag on it. He is a great kid, he’s a great leader and he shows everybody else the right way to do things,” Welker said.
That run was it for the Knights on the afternoon, however, as despite threatening on multiple occasions. Archbold’s Jayden Seiler was sharp on the mound.
Seiler, a freshman, had the second best earned run average in the Northwest Ohio Athletic League coming into the game at 1.42, and showed it with his ability to change his speed and location all day.
“Jayden Seiler on the mound just did an incredible job for us. He threw 120 pitches and we have never gone that long with him. But I kept asking him and he said he was fine, so we were going to keep going until we got to the max. He just kept getting better as the game went along,” Archbold head coach Dick Selgo said.
Seiler’s final line on the day was seven innings, giving up one run on three hits, 11 strikeouts and four walks.
Conner Smith was on the mound for the Knights. Smith had the third best earned-run average in the NBC this year at 1.36, but struggled early in the contest.
In the first inning, after setting the first two Bluestreak hitters down, DJ Newman came to the plate. Newman, a junior that led the NWOAL in batting average at .512, roped an opposite field solo home run in the first inning to tie things at one.
After Archbold tacked another run on in the second inning, Newman came to the plate in the third with a runner on second and just barely missed his second home run of the game, instead settling for an RBI double.
Newman went 3-for-4 on the day with 2 RBIs and two runs scored.
“He (Newman) has been a key player, there is no question about that. He’s a competitor, he’s a three-sport athlete and our guys look up to him and they feed of that. His home run today was pretty big … that is for sure,” Selgo said.
The third inning turned into a three-run affair. After Newman’s double, a double from Jaybe Burkle and single from Caleb Hogrefe drove in two more runs to make it 5-1 Archbold.
The inning knocked Smith out of the game and junior Jared Crozier entered, giving up just one run (not earned) in four innings on three hits, six strikeouts and two walks. Smith’s line was two innings giving up five runs (three earned) on seven hits, one strikeout and no walks.
Smith was a part of a two-man senior class for the Knights with Noah Dzierwa. Those two were the only players that had varsity experience coming into the season and they were a big part of why they had postseason success, Welker said.
“They were everything,” he said. “They kind of kept us together through some of the low points and the tough points, and kept us headed in the right direction.”
It was an up-and-down season for the Knights, but they ended up finishing third in the NBC and earning a district final runner-up trophy. With such a young team that will bring back their ace pitcher in Joseph Dzierwa next season, the experience is invaluable, Welker said.
“I think it gives us confidence. The young guys … they have seen how it works, they know the caliber of baseball that is required to get to this point. Hopefully we can learn from this experience and be able to get over the hump next year,” Welker said.