By Zach Baker
Columbian’s Trent Steinmetz makes a play on a ground ball during Friday’s sectional final against?Celina in Tiffin.
Columbian’s Jeffrey?Crawford pitches during Friday’s regional final agianst Celina in Tiffin.
It all looked good for Columbian early on against Celina starter Kaleb Kuhn.
Russ Yeast led off the bottom of the first by tripling over the head of Bulldog right fielder Seth Lonsway, and Aaron Sostaric followed with an RBI single.
Columbian led the Division II sectional final 1-0, and looked poised to add on.
The Tornadoes didn't get another hit for another six innings.
Kuhn settled in, his teammates picked things up on offense, and Celina advanced to next week's Bluffton District semifinals with a 6-3 win.
"That's a senior ace for you," said Celina coach Andy Mikesell of his pitcher, who threw a complete game three hitter, struck out 11 and allowed one earned run. "He's pitched with the lead, he's pitched from behind and come back. He's done pretty much everything, and he did. He battled, he stuck with it.
"He kept shaking his head, looking over at me," Mikesell said, "saying, 'No, I'm not coming out.'"
The Bulldogs (13-14) got things going against Columbian starter Nate Hoyda in the second, scoring two runs, one coming on a Lonsway RBI single. They added three more in the third on two sacrifice flies and a Skylar McCarter RBI bunt single.
"It seemed like we were at-bat there for an hour at a time at the beginning, and that's good," Mikesell said. "Make them stay on the field, keep us at the plate. When we execute, we're very solid."
Hoyda, who took the loss, lasted 2 2/3 innings, allowing four runs, three earned, on four hits. He struck out two, walked three and hit two.
"He just didn't have good stuff today," Columbian coach Curt Mellott said.
Jeffrey Crawford pitched the rest of the game for TC.
Despite struggling to get base hits, the Tornadoes did have opportunities. They had runners on second and third and one out in the first, but Kuhn picked Tyler Gillig off second, then got Hoyda to fly to left.
In the third, Austin Burgess and Yeast drew walks to start the inning, then Burgess took third on a wild pitch and Yeast stole second. But Kuhn came back to fan the next three hitters, one of two innings in which he struck out the side.
"We had opportunities, it wasn't like we were getting shut down," Mellott said. "It wasn't as if it was doom and gloom because we couldn't swing the bats. It was just simply, we're not getting the big hit there. We're a young team in a lot of ways, but even with that being said, we've got to learn how to adjust and make those things happen."
The Bulldogs capped their scoring with an unearned run in the top of the seventh. The Tornadoes final two runs came in the bottom half. With one out, pinch hitter Garret Bean was hit by a pitch, then Burgess singled to right. A Yeast grounder forced Burgess at second, then Yeast took second on defensive indifference.
Sosaric grounded to first, but Lonway, who had moved in from right field a few innings earlier, made a bad throw to first with the pitcher covering. Bean and Yeast scored, but Sostaric was thrown out by Kuhn when he tried to take second ending the game."
"Seth is giving Kaleb a big hug right now for that one," Mikesell said. "That's a play Seth makes in his sleep. He just had a bad one, and we were due for a bad play."
Columbian falls to 13-10. But it has a chance today to win the outright Northern Ohio League title when Ontario comes to town.
"We don't want Celina to beat us two days in a row," Mellott said. "So it's going to be really important for us to refocus and rekindle that fire against a good Ontario team."