By MICHAEL BURWELL
ELIDA — Ottawa-Glandorf’s baseball team has found ways all season to grind out low-scoring wins.
But in Thursday’s Division III regional semifinal against Clear Fork, the Titans couldn’t come up with a way to get runs on the board.
O-G mustered just three hits off Clear Fork pitcher Mitch Dulin, and the Colts played error-free baseball and scored a pair of runs late to pull out a 2-0 win at Elida’s Ed Sandy Field.
“Our bats just weren’t there today and they haven’t been all year,” O-G coach Nick Miller said. “We’ve always found ways to scratch it out, it just wasn’t the answer today.”
Clear Fork (17-12), which advanced to the state semifinals a year ago, will take on Eastwood in the regional final at 5 p.m. today at Ed Sandy Field. Eastwood topped Archbold 5-4 in the second game Thursday at Elida.
For O-G (19-8), it was the Titans’ first regional appearance since 1981 and just their third overall. Twelve of the Titans’ wins came while scoring five runs or less, while six of their losses came while scoring one or zero runs.
Clear Fork broke through with a run in the fifth inning and scored again in the sixth. Leadoff hitter Thomas Staab hit a one-out single to right field in the fifth, stole second on the next pitch and scored on Jared Lind’s double over O-G right fielder Logan Miller three pitches later.
Staab also had two of the Colts’ five stolen bases.
“He’s been doing that all year when he’s healthy,” Clear Fork coach Rusty Staab said of his son, “and I think that, with Mitch on the mound, everybody’s comfortable.”
In the sixth, pinch-hitter Gage Belcher drilled a one-out single to left field that just missed the glove of a diving Logan Balbaugh. He stole second base, and with two outs, stole third.
O-G catcher Austin Horstman fired a throw down to third, but it went by third baseman Chase Schrieber. Belcher scored on the throwing error to give the Colts a 2-0 lead.
“That was not my call,” Rusty Staab said, “and that was one of those ‘hey what are you doing? Hey, good job.’ That was huge.”
Dulin, a 6-foot-6 sophomore, pitched a complete game and had two strikeouts, a walk and hit a batter on 89 pitches.
“Not to jinx anything, but he’s 6-0 right now in tournament play (in his career),” Rusty Staab said. “He’s just a bulldog. He’s pitched an amazing job all year. He got behind, his motion looked a little goofy at the beginning (of the game). Up until about the fourth inning he was really slowing things down with his leg kick and then he was exploding and everything was low. But I think he adjusted well.”
And he had plenty of help behind him to keep the Titans off the board.
After Balbaugh led off the fifth with a four-pitch walk and advanced to second on Nathan Arrington’s sacrifice bunt, Miller popped out to Lind at second, who flipped to shortstop Hunter Boyer, who caught Balbaugh off the bag for a double play.
“That’s the best defense we’ve played all year,” Rusty Staab said. “That’s what I told them when we got to the huddle, the best thing to look at is zero errors. Our infield played great.”
O-G junior Grant Fuerst, who earned first-team all-WBL honors this season, was tagged with the loss on the mound. He allowed six hits and had two walks, two hit batters and a strikeout on 82 pitches.
Fuerst pitched out of a pair of Clear Fork scoring chances early in the game. The Colts had runners on second and third with two outs in the second and third innings.
But Fuerst forced a groundout to end the second and struck out Boyer to finish the third.
“That was big to keep the zeroes on the board and give us a chance to win late in the game,” Nick Miller said. “Our defense has been solid all year, it really has. I know we had a couple errors today, but usually for the most part, the ball’s on the ground, we’re going to make a play and throw them out at first.”
Lind added an infield single to his RBI double to lead Clear Fork at the plate.
Owen Hiegel and Mike Bowers’ back-to-back two-out hits in the third inning and Horstman’s single in the seventh were the lone hits for the Titans.
O-G, which graduates one senior (Balbaugh), will be hoping to make a return trip to regionals next year with nearly its entire squad back.
“This was a great trip down here and just to continue to play baseball after the districts, it’s icing on the cake for us right now,” Nick Miller said. “We’re a program on the rise, I think, and like I said to the kids out there (in the outfield after the game); we only lose one kid but he’s a big kid. He’s a big part of our team. So we got a majority of our kids coming back and hopefully they come back pretty hungry.”
Ottawa-Glandorf 000 000 0 — 0 3 2
Clear Fork 000 011 x — 2 6 0
WP — Dulin. LP — Fuerst. TOP HITTERS: (O-G) Hiegel, Bowers & Horstman 1B. (CF) Lind 2B, 1B, RBI; Boyer, Blobaugh, Staab & Belcher 1B.
RECORDS: Ottawa-Glandorf 19-8; Clear Fork 17-12.
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