LOUISVILLE — Shortly after the Tallmadge and Louisville baseball teams advanced through sectional play last week, Sam Seeker sent a text message to Blue Devils coach Kenny Linn.
Todd Bangston, who probably has been Tallmadge’s most consistent pitcher this year, had thrown the sectional final. Seeker had his sights set on Monday’s district semifinal against the Leopards on their home field.
“He just said, ‘Coach, I want Louisville,’” Linn said. “I didn’t hesitate. I said, ‘They’re yours,’ because I knew he could handle this environment.”
Seeker wanted the Leopards and he delivered with a two-hit shutout as No. 3 seed Tallmadge beat No. 2 seed Louisville 2-0 to advance to Wednesday’s 5 p.m. district final against Norton at Louisville’s Andy Aljancic Field. Norton, the top seed, beat Marlington 4-2 in Monday’s earlier semifinal.
The Leopards loaded the bases with two outs in the bottom of the seventh, but Seeker struck out Cam King swinging to end this rematch of last year’s district final, won 1-0 by Tallmadge.
“We know they’re tough and I think they know we’re tough,” Seeker said. “Anytime we play each other, there’s a little chip on your shoulder, especially coming to their field. We knew it was going to be tough. Their whole community came out. We told ourselves, we’ve prepared for this.”
Seeker, a senior lefty and an Ohio State recruit, didn’t allow a hit through four innings. Jordan Shearer, Louisville’s senior lefty, matched him with four hitless innings.
Tallmadge (16-7) broke through on the scoreboard in the top of the sixth.
Seeker worked a walk to lead off the inning, moved to second on a wild pitch and scored when senior catcher Rich Eyre hammered a double down the left field line. Sophomore Devin Norton provided an unearned insurance run later in the inning with a sacrifice fly deep to left.
Shearer (6-3) worked 6 1/3 innings, allowing three hits, walking four, hitting a batter and striking out three.
“Jordan did everything for us that we needed him to do,” Louisville coach Brian Warner said. “He was prepared. My heart hurts for guys like Jordan Shearer.”
The only hits Seeker allowed were a 12-foot swinging bunt by Dom Mongiardo in the fifth and Cam Lingle’s sharp single in the seventh. Seeker (6-1) struck out nine while working around six walks.
“It was the difference in speed between his fastball and curveball,” Warner said. “He was throwing them effectively enough. He had some command issues, but we didn’t make the walks hurt. He kept our guys guessing up there a little bit. We really didn’t square anything up. We’ve got some big bats and he shut us down.”
A feeling of mutual respect between the two heavyweight teams persisted after the game.
“They’ve got a great program,” Linn said. “Brian’s done a great job. Baseball in this community is similar to what we have in Tallmadge. Everyone is committed, dedicated. The kids grow up here and stay here. They develop a bond. Then you get the right people in the dugout with them.
“We knew it was going to be a helluva game."