But Norwalk baseball coach Wes Douglas had plenty of confidence in the depth of his team, and it played out perfectly on Wednesday.
Hosting Mansfield Senior in a Division II sectional semifinal, Douglas turned to shortstop Garrett Obringer to start for the first time this season. He then brought in freshman Ian Minor, who also has pitched in a limited role this spring, to help finish it off.
All those two did was combine for a two-hit shutout over five innings as the Truckers (17-8) scored five runs in the top of the first inning and cruised to a 10-0 run-rule win over the Tygers.
With the win, Norwalk advanced to Friday’s 5 p.m. sectional championship game at Perkins (16-8) for a third meeting with the Pirates.
“We rolled the dice a little bit by taking this game on to stay where we wanted in the upper bracket,” Douglas said. “We would have wanted to play a game today anyways, so it worked out. Was a little nervous about their pitcher coming in, I had heard some good things — but then obviously we got the five runs right away. That took a lot of pressure off.”
Garrett Obringer opened up the bottom of the first with a single, and Eli Obringer quickly followed with another single. Nate Adelman and Minor then hit back-to-back RBI singles for a 2-0 lead.
Sam Battles then reached on an error, which allowed Adelman to score to make it 3-0. Tony Weisenburger grounded out to third, which allowed Minor to score the fourth run. Zach Keefer closed the scoring in the frame with an RBI single.
Eli Obringer singled in Garrett Obringer in the second, then an RBI double from Keefer in the third scored pinch runner Evan Gaston, who was in for Sam Battles after he singled.
Adelman walked in the fourth, then was doubled in by Minor to make it 8-0. Norwalk ended the game in the fifth with a pair of runs. Weisenburger singled, Keefer walked — then Kyle Smith scored them both with a base hit to right field.
In three innings, Garrett Obringer allowed one hit while striking out seven of the nine outs recorded. He threw 42 pitches (28 strikes). Minor allowed two hits with a pair of strikeouts over the final two innings on 27 pitches (17 strikes).
“He had only pitched seven or eight innings this year because we like to leave him at shortstop,” Douglas said of Obringer. “We started four freshman today. We were able to bring in some different kids today, the weather was great and our confidence is very good right now. We’ll see what happens on Friday.”
On April 12, the Pirates edged the Truckers in Perkins by a 2-1 score, scoring twice without the ball leaving the infield. The two teams were tied 3-3 in the fifth inning in Norwalk when rain postponed it to May 7, where the Truckers responded with five runs over two innings for an 8-5 win.
“It was just the way we scripted it today,” Douglas said. “We’re going to Perkins on Friday, and that was our plan. We’ll have a good, sharp practice (today) and go over there for a game with two evenly-matched teams. It’s been two pretty good games. We have all of our pitching choices available for us on Friday.”
Mansfield 000 00 — 0 3 2
Norwalk 511 12 — 10 11 1
WP: Obringer; LP: Reese
2B: (N) Keefer, Minor