Fremont St. Joseph pitcher Brody Deck met the Ohio High School Athletic Association limit of 125 pitches while pitching to Lars Livengood in the seventh inning of Thursday’s Division IV sectional championship game.
But the rule states the pitcher can finish the batter. So when Deck was pulled with a 1-2 count, St. Paul pounced.
The Flyers scored four runs on four hits, a walk, and a wild pitch to escape with a 7-6 win over SJCC.
"You can't say enough about these guys," St. Paul coach Jim Carper said. "We struck out 14 times today, but I think we were pressing too much. In the seventh inning, God smiled on us and these guys got the job done."
St. Paul, winners of 11 straight games, improved to 18-7. The Flyers face Hopewell-Loudon next Thursday at 6 p.m. at Clyde High School.
"I think if our kids don't have confidence now, there is something seriously wrong with them," said Carper with a smile. "I think these guys are on a mission. They know what they want."
Livengood bounced back against reliever Merrick Hirt to beat out an infield single. Scott Adelman also reached on an infield single, then Gavin Starcher walked to load the bases. Noah Good put a charge into a ball, but Deck made a spectacular diving catch to hold the Flyers to just a sacrifice fly.
Jake Griffin and Spencer Myers followed with RBI singles to tie the game, and Griffin scored on a wild pitch with Eli Fisher at the plate to take the lead. Fisher popped out to end the frame, but the damage was done.
Starcher, who came on in relief of Griffin in the fourth inning, finished the game strong. He recorded a pair of strikeouts and a groundout in the bottom of the seventh to end the win for St. Paul.
"He hit 125 pitches," SJCC coach Matt Malecha said. "I don't want to put a kid's arm in jeopardy. Arm care is something I do not take lightly and it’s something we stress a lot of. We really make sure these kids do a good job of protecting their arms. I don't regret (taking Deck out)."
Starcher proved unhittable for the Flyers. He pitched the final 3 1/3 innings, allowing no hits. He walked one and struck out seven.
"Griffin got into some trouble early, but Gavin pitched well for us," Carper said. "Gavin has a heck of a curveball. He was not going to be denied."
SJCC (14-11) jumped on Griffin early. Griffin struck out the first two batters, but consecutive singles by Ricky Geyer and Garrett Michael and a walk to Isaac Jiminez gave the Streaks an immediate threat. SJCC took advantage though, as Derek Ritzman singled to score two runs.
The teams exchanged runs in the second before St. Paul tied the game in the third. The Flyers continued their patience at the plate as Deck struggled to find the strike zone at times.
Livengood opened the third by reaching on an error before Adelman singled. After a strikeout, Good walked to load the bases and Griffin drew another walk to bring in a run. Myers added a fielder's choice to bring in Adelman to tie the game.
"We just kept fighting," Carper said. "The kids had that 'never say die' attitude. You can't coach that. It is something those 15 guys just have."
The 3-3 score remained until the SJCC offense exploded again in the fourth inning. Singles from Hirt and Deck, as well as a hit batter loaded the bases. Geyer recorded his third single of the day to score two runs. Griffin induced a popout, but Jiminez singled to make it 6-3, ending Griffin's day.
"We knew Griffin was a good pitcher," Malecha said. "We also knew he was not going to walk a whole lot of guys. We told our guys to be aggressive early in the count."
St. Paul drew on late game experiences they have had this season, including scoring two runs in the bottom of the seventh to beat South Central on May 6.
"That was huge," Carper said. "That is the greatest thing about baseball — you play until the third out in the last inning."
Deck finished with 14 strikeouts. He walked five and allowed just two hits.
"Yesterday we had a 13-inning game against Gibsonburg, which was basically to earn a share of the league title," Malecha said. "We had to throw a bunch of our arms, so we knew coming into today that we may need a few other arms to step up."
For the Flyers, getting back to Clyde is another step in the right direction to avenging a disappointing 5-4 loss to Ottawa Hills in the district final last year.
"It is a good feeling because that loss to Ottawa Hills, I think we all still think about it," Carper said. "These guys never gave up."
Griffin allowed six runs on 11 hits. He struck out five and threw 91 pitches in 3 2/3 innings.
St. Paul 012 000 4 — 7 6 0
F. SJCC 210 300 x — 6 11 2
WP: Starcher. LP: Hirt
2B: (SJCC) Kocsis, G. Michael, B. Michael.