The Archbishop Hoban baseball players clicked on all cylinders Tuesday against Tallmadge.
Quality pitching, check.
Timely hitting, check.
Terrific defense, check.
Add it up, and it was no wonder Hoban coach Jim Diestel was smiling as he talked with his staff after an 8-1 victory in the Akron Division II district championship Tuesday at Summit Lake Park’s George Sisler Field.
Tallmadge (14-13) scored first with a run in the fourth inning, but Hoban (18-10) responded with eight runs. Hoban will play Chardon Notre Dame-Cathedral Latin in a regional semifinal at 5 p.m. May 30 at Hudson. Hoban beat NDCL twice in the regular season.
“We have been looking forward to this day since we lost last year to Tallmadge in this game,” Hoban senior Cody Hargett said. “We came into this season with the goal to make it here and further. We put the work in. We wanted to win this game and move on.”
Senior Sean Trexler hit a two-run single in the fifth inning to break a 1-1 tie and put the Knights ahead for good. Hargett capped the scoring with a two-run single in the sixth inning.
“They were throwing me a lot of curve balls, so I just stayed back and took the ball to right field and drove in a couple of runs,” Trexler said of his hit that scored freshman Tyler Canova and senior Aaron Cain. Canova was running for senior Tony Guerriero, who had singled.
Hargett’s single scored junior Brennen Bell and Canova. The Knights also got a diving catch by senior right fielder Adam Gray in the fifth inning to quell a rally, and a game-ending double play with the bases loaded that involved Trexler at shortstop and senior Austin Farber at third base.
“Towards the end of the season, we finally got [senior catcher] Anthony Osmun back [from an injury],” Hoban coach Jim Diestel said. “When you get someone like that back who really leads vocally and pulls everyone together, then all of the other guys want to play that hard as well. Gray was a game-changer at that moment in the fifth. Trexler’s play on the ball up the middle when they scored their run changed that inning from them having a chance to score two and a bunch more, to they got one and now there are two outs and we shut the door. The double play at the end was nice. On the bench we were all sitting there saying ‘Just throw strikes. Make them hit the ball.’ We have been exceptionally good defense the last half of the season. As soon as Osmun came back, that has changed the dynamics on the field.”
Senior Scott Noel doubled and scored Tallmadge’s run in the fourth. A sacrifice bunt by senior Zach Skraba and a groundout by sophomore John Rensel scored Noel.
Hoban tied the score at 1-1 in the fourth when sophomore Jordan Burns knocked in Trexler.
The Knights scored five runs in the fifth to take control. Trexler’s two-run single made it 3-1. A squeeze by senior Austin Farber scored Hargett, Burns singled in Trexler and senior Adam Gray doubled in Burns.
Senior right-hander Drew Lakos earned the win for Hoban by pitching 6⅓ innings. He limited Tallmadge to one run and five hits.
“I wanted to go all seven and get the complete game, but I was way over my maximum amount of pitches,” Lakos said. “[Sophomore] Dom Hinton came in and closed it out. That double play held them to one run and was pretty crazy. It is obviously a nice feeling since last year we lost to them in the same spot. We were the ones coming up short. As a sophomore, being on the team that won the district title and was state runner-up was great. It is nice to be back in this position and going to the regional.”
Gray’s over-the-shoulder diving catch was the second out in Tallmadge’s fifth. They had two runners on who were then stranded when Lakos struck out a batter.
“I believe that if the ball gets over his head in right field than we are holding that gold,” Tallmadge coach Kenny Linn said. “That was a heck of a play. It changed the whole outcome of the game. We might still be hitting right now because they might have had to get him off the mound, but that is the way the game is. We have been on both sides of this thing throughout the course of my career. Sometimes the ball bounces your way and sometimes it doesn’t. It is a game of inches, that is for sure.”
The Trexler-to-Farber double play in the seventh set off a massive on-field celebration.
“I just stayed focused on making sure I got the first out of the double play,” Trexler said. “Then I didn’t want to throw the ball away on the second out. I was just playing my position and made the play. Farber was at third and caught the ball to make the final out, and the game was over.”
Osmun was one of the Knights who posed for pictures with the district trophy.
“I was in the stands when we beat Walsh Jesuit in the district back in 2011 with all of those seniors,” Osmun said. “Last year I got to experience the district final and lost to these same guys. We knew we had come out with intensity today because they are a really good team. It was an intense game from the first pitch on.”
The outcome capped the Tallmadge careers of seniors Cordt Skraba, Zach Skraba, Zach Cleary, Kody Edwards, Scott Noel and Nick Robinson. All six played on regional teams.
“Hoban is pretty much the same team we matched up with last year across the board,” Linn said. “They only lost three seniors. They play a heck of a schedule and they prepare themselves for this, just like we do. We knew we had to play really well, we had to have clutch hits and we had to have the important things in a big game like this.”
Michael Beaven can be reached at 330-996-3829 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the high school blog at http://www.ohio.com/preps. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/MBeavenABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.