By DAVE HANNEMAN
Three teams will get a trophy proclaiming them 2017 Putnam County League baseball champions.
But only one will get a trophy for winning the Division IV district tournament at Ottawa …. and the bragging rights and a regional tournament bid that go with it.
Kalida, which shared the PCL title with Miller City and Leipsic, answered McComb’s go-ahead rally with a game-winning rally of its own and got a redemption save from Owen Recker in beating the Panthers 5-4 in Wednesday’s first district semifinal matchup at Ottawa’s Memorial Park.
In the second semifinal, Leipsic scored five runs in the bottom of the second inning and held on from there, beating Miller City 6-4.
Kalida, coming off back-to-back one-run tournament wins and just 12-10 overall, will face Leipsic (21-5) at 5 p.m. Friday in the district final. The winner advances to the Division IV regional semifinals beginning May 25 at Patrick Henry.
Recker started Wednesday’s semifinal with McComb, but left after just two innings with pain in his lower back.
“He thought he might have knocked a rib out of place, or strained something,” said Kalida coach Joe Recker.
McComb took a 3-2 lead by scoring three runs in the bottom of the fourth inning against reliever Trent Siebeneck. Kalida went back in front with three runs in the fifth, but McComb was threatening again in the seventh against Jeffrey Knueve, Kalida’s first-string catcher and part-time outfielder who had come on to pitch in the fifth.
Justin Wasson had doubled leading off the last of the seventh and Tanner Schroeder, after getting a reprieve on a check-swing third strike, walked.
Joe Recker then brought Owen Recker back to the mound. McComb trimmed the deficit to 5-4 when Caden Schroeder’s grounder to short was booted. But Owen Recker struck out the next three batters — two of them on called third strikes — to end it.
“Owen still had some discomfort. He couldn’t throw his change-up at the end of the game. He basically was stuck with his fastball, but it’s a pretty good one.
“We won with him and I give him a lot of credit. He’s a gamer. He’s in a lot of pain right now, but we’ll get him to the chiropractor tomorrow, get him loose and he’ll be eligible to go on Friday.”
Kalida took a 2-0 lead in the third inning on Knueve’s RBI single and an error. McComb went ahead in the fourth when Tyler Bommarito drew a one-out walk, Ryan Wenzinger singled and Kyle Wasson drilled the first pitch he saw for a two-run double in the gap. Malachi Abbott grounded a base hit to right to make it 3-2.
Kalida regained the lead in fifth when Derek Buss singled, Knueve walked and Recker ripped a two-run double to left-center. Ethan Schmenk’s slicing RBI single to left put Kalida up 5-3.
Recker, Siebeneck and Buss had two hits each for Kalida.
Abbott had a pair of base hits and Kyle Wasson and Justin Wasson had doubles for McComb. Tanner Schroeder tripled leading off the last of the fifth, but was stranded at third.
“I didn’t think we got some the calls I think we should have got,” McComb coach Robbie Quiroga said after the Panthers ended their season at 17-5. “But that happens. That’s baseball.”
McComb and Kalida had split a doubleheader earlier this season, McComb winning the first game 7-4, and Kalida pounding out a 23-8 win in the second contest.
Friday’s district final will be a rematch as well. Back on April 25, Leipsic clinched its share of the PCL title and denied Kalida an outright crown by beating the Wildcats 5-1.
“We got them earlier this year, but they beat us twice last season, 3-2 both times” said Leipsic coach Darren Henry.
“It will be close. It will be a battle. It will be the same thing.
“Kalida. Miller City. Any of the county schools. You just know it’s always going to be a battle.”
Henry expected as much from Miller City, which beat Leipsic 3-2 in a mid-April PCL matchup.
The difference this time was costly mistakes. Miller City outhit Leipsic 9-4 on Wednesday, but the Wildcats committed five errors.
“We’ve been really good defensively all year, but we weren’t good defensively today. The made us make plays, but we didn’t make enough of them,” said Miller City coach Dusty Pester.
“They’re a good team. They’re 21-5 for a reason and this was their night.”
Leipsic’s Robbie Laubenthal was beaned by a pitch leading off the bottom of the second inning. When Miller City could not come up with Jordan Berger’s slicing fly ball to right and Devin Hiegel’s bunt down the third base line, the Vikings had loaded the bases without the benefit of a hit.
That changed when Nick Schey slapped a single to left to drive in the game’s first run. With one out, leadoff batter Cole Rieman shot a two-run single to right. Schey made it 4-0 when he beat the throw to the plate on Tyler Hiegel’s chopper over the mound and Rieman scored on Grant Rader’s grounder to second.
Leipsic added a run in the fifth when Berger walked and scored on two Miller City throwing errors.
Miller City (17-5) rallied with two-run rallies in the third and fourth innings.
Designated hitter Lane Hiltner, who went 3-for-3 hitting in the No. 9 spot, doubled, Cole Niese singled and both scored easily when Jacob Schimmoeller smoked a two-out double to the gap in left center in the third.
Justin Schnipke and Hiltner singled in the fourth, Mark Kuhlman and Kelvin Stechschulte were safe when Leipsic got one out but not two on potential double-play grounders, and two runs scored on a throwing error.
Grant Rader got the win and Dylan Schroeder the save. Schroeder replaced Rader to start the fifth and pitched out of a slight one on-one out jam in the fifth inning and a two-out two-on threat in the sixth. The sophomore right-hander retired the side in order in the top of the seventh.
KALIDA 5, MCCOMB 4
Kalida 002 030 0 — 5 9 1 McComb 000 300 1 — 4 9 2
WP — Siebeneck. LP — Abbott. top hitters: (Kal) Knueve 1B, RBI; Recker 1B, 2B, 2 RBI; Schmenk 1B, RBI; Buss 2-1B; Siebeneck 2-1B. (McC) K. Wassson 2B, 2 RBI; T. Schroeder 3B; J. Wasson 2B; Abbott 2-1B.
records: Kalida 12-10, McComb 17-5.
LEIPSIC 6, MILLER CITY 4
Miller City 002 200 0 — 4 9 5
Leipsic 050 010 x — 6 4 2
WP — Rader. LP — J. Kuhlman. top hitters: (MC) Col. Niese 2-1B; Schimmoeller 2B, 2 RBI; Schnipke 1B, 2B; Hiltner 2-1B, 2B. (Leip) Schey 2-1B, RBI; Rieman 1B, 2 RBI.
records: Leipsic 21-5, Miller City 17-5.
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