COLUMBUS: One long inning proved to be the difference Friday afternoon for the Archbishop Hoban baseball team.
Defiance hit Hoban with a four-run first inning and never trailed in a 5-1 victory in a Division II state semifinal at Huntington Park. Hoban ends its season with a 20-11 record.
“The farther you go, the harder it hurts to lose,” said Hoban senior catcher Anthony Osmun, who went 3-for-3. “I am sure it will take a little while for this to sink in, but looking back, this was a great season and a lot of fun. This is a team I will never forget, from the 10 seniors to the two freshmen. We all love each other like brothers.”
Defiance, the No. 1 ranked team in Division II, upped its record to 30-1. The Bulldogs will play Plain City Jonathan Alder in a state final at 7 p.m. Saturday. Alder defeated Cadiz Harrison Central 11-1 in the other state semifinal.
The Knights had opportunities for a comeback with seven hits, but stranding seven runners on base and having another two tossed out attempting to steal didn’t help.
“We were knocking on the door; we just couldn’t get that two-out base hit,” Hoban coach Jim Diestel said. “The difference really in this game is they had two clutch, two-out base hits, one of them being a triple with the bases loaded.”
Defiance took a 4-0 lead in the top of the first inning with two outs. Senior Dom Romero worked a bases-loaded walk to score senior Rob Zeigler to make it 1-0. Senior Weston Rivers followed with a triple high off the right-field wall that scored junior Adam Schaffer, senior Austin Yant and Romero.
“[Weston] went up there and got that first pitch fastball and turned on it,” Defiance coach Tom Held said. “Boy, when you have a four-run lead against a good Hoban team and Robby Zeigler on the hill, you can breathe a little bit.”
Zeigler, a 6-foot-4 and 205 pound right-handed University of Kentucky recruit, struck out 14 and walked three over seven innings.
“He is impressive,” Diestel said. “He is a seriously talented athletic kid. He is big, a good-sized kid with movement on every pitch. He made our kids work. Our kids were ready, too. I think we hit the ball reasonably well against him. We had opportunities, but he really tightened down when the guys were on base. You have got to give him credit.”
Defiance catcher Joe Keween went 2-for-4 with a double and single, and he also caught two Hoban base runners attempting to steal second base.
“We live and die all season being aggressive on the base paths, forcing teams to mistakes, and they didn’t make mistakes,” Diestel said. “I don’t think our kids played tight. They played loose, and they played well. We were forcing some things against a team that was prepared.”
Hoban cut into its deficit with an unearned run in the third. Senior Aaron Cain worked a walk and senior Cody Hargett hit an infield single with one out. Cain scored with two outs after an overthrow of first base after an infield single by senior Austin Farber.
The Bulldogs added a run in the fifth to make it 5-1 when senior Drake Jimenez hit a two-out, pinch-hit single to left field that scored Schaffer.
“It is always sad, not just for them, but for the whole team,” Diestel said. “These guys know that this is it. This is their last high school game. They are the reason we are here. It makes it that much harder when you know they are done.”
Hoban right-handed pitcher Drew Lakos (7-2) took the loss after working 6⅓ innings. The senior struck out seven, allowed eight hits and walked five.
Osmun lined a double in the second, singled in the fifth and singled in the sixth off Zeigler (10-0). Hoban sophomore Jordan Burns also hit a single.
“We knew coming in that he was going to be a heck of a pitcher,” Osmun said of Zeigler. “He is a big-time recruit going to a big D-I, SEC school. My approach from the start was hit the fastball, and if it is a curveball don’t swing unless there are two strikes. So, every time I got that fastball, which was coming in pretty hard, but pretty straight, I tried to put a decent swing on the ball.
“Not many teams make it this far. We are one of the final four teams in the entire state of Ohio in Division II to make it this far. This is quite an accomplishment, especially with this being my senior year.”
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.