Sonny Fulks
Sonny Fulks
Managing Editor

Sonny Fulks is a graduate of Ohio State University and pitched four varsity seasons for the Buckeye baseball team from 1971 through 1974.  He furthered his baseball experience as a minor league league umpire for seven years, working in the Florida State League (A), the Southern League (AA), and the American Association (AAA).  He has written for numerous websites and outdoor publications, and for the past ten years has served as a regular columnist and photo editor for Gettysburg Magazine, published by the University of Nebraska Press.  Widely knowledgeable on that period of American History, Fulks is a frequent speaker on the Civil War at local roundtables throughout the Midwest. He and wife Mindy have two grown children and live in Covington, Ohio.

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A year after Elmwood shocked the Division V brackets by beating Coldwater in their tourney debut, the Cavaliers returned the favor on Friday with a shutout and a dominating pitching performance by Dylan Thobe.

Coldwater – To a man they would tell you this week that every one of them that that played on last year’s Coldwater Cavaliers team remembered, and were motivated, by their opening round tourney loss to Elmwood in the 2016 tournament.

At the time Coldwater was ranked #2 in the state in Division V.  They had a 24-3 record.  They had one of the best lineups in their recent history of success, with pitching and defense.  They had the advantage of tournament and championship experience from football.  But they had a bad day, just one, and that’s all it takes to burst the bubble of a promising season.  They lost, on the road at Elmwood, 5-3.

They atoned for that one bad day on Friday evening with a dominating pitching performance by senior Dylan Thobe, steady defense, and barely enough offense to send the Royals packing for home…3-0.

mcsobers_embedThobe was brilliant, striking out twelve, walking one, while surrendering just four hits.  Elmwood (7-10) never threatened.

But to their credit, the Royals, a team with just one returning starter from last year’s team, pitched well enough TO WIN on most days.  Righthander Tyler St. Clair scattered just five hits and only one of the three Coldwater runs was earned.  He struck out three and walked five, but continually seemed to find a way to wriggle out of trouble on his own.  He had to…because his defense committed four errors officially (five technically), and provided very little in the way of support.

Coldwater opened early in the first with a leadoff hit by Jacob Wenning, a walk to Dylan Thobe, another single by Nate Brundin, and an RBI sac fly by Brad Giere.  They loaded the bases…and got one run out of it as St. Clair induced Austin Riethman to ground out for the final out in the inning.

Two innings later the Cavaliers sent eight men to the plate, six reached on a pair of walks and two throwing errors by the Elmwood infield (they had trouble throwing the ball to first base all day), and eventually Thobe and Brundin scored on the second of the errors by third baseman Tyler Stone.  Two runs scored, but opportunity missed for the second time in three innings as Coldwater stranded three men on base.

From that point on Dylan Thobe sent his own redemptive message, striking out seven of the game’s final twelve outs, getting stronger as he went along.  What made him so tough was his ability to throw first-pitch strikes, command his breaking ball, and make Elmwood hitters chase pitches out of the strike zone when they were behind in the count.  Of his twelve punch-0uts, at least half were on pitches in the dirt.  He made them chase.

“When you can get ahead, and when you can trust your catcher (Jacob Harting), you can throw the ball in the dirt and make them chase it,”  Thobe offered, citing a vintage pitching philosophy.

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He was totally comfortable, without nerves, or fear of failure…from the outset.  There was no adjustment period of settling in.  Thobe was good from the first throw he made, and even better on the game’s final pitch.

“I had an easy, relaxing day before the game,”  he explained.  “Was I thinking about it being Elmwood and last year?  Yes, but it’s our park, my home mound, and it helps to have your teammates and family around you for support.  Today was definitely redemptive because it was so hard last year with losing and having all our seniors go out that way.  I was close with a lot of those guys and today was a nice feeling to come back and play the way we did.  I didn’t try to overthink anything, I just tried to focus.  The two unearned runs in the third made my life a little easier.”

Coldwater (17-6) won it with 3 runs on just 5 hits,  they committed one error and stranded 8 men on base;  but they were aggressive with those five hits, stealing and taking the extra base with every opportunity.

Elmwood lost it on just 4 hits, committed 4 errors, and left three on base.  And Thobe saw to it that there were no aggressive opportunities on the bases.

Coldwater was aggressive on the bases, dictating the pace of the game and forcing Elmwood mistakes.

Coldwater was aggressive on the bases, dictating the pace of the game and forcing Elmwood mistakes.

If you play the game long enough you come to understand that there really is no revenge in baseball.  Sometimes you just have a bad day – you hit the ball hard, but at someone.  You throw the perfect pitch, but someone else makes the perfect swing.  A lot of things can happen…or nothing can happen.

“And really that’s what happened to us last year,” said coach Brian Harlamert.  “We never strung any hits together.  They (Elmwood) simply had a better day.

“But last year was last year and this year is this year.  Dylan Thobe went out there today and had a dominating game.  Elmwood is a solid team and sometimes in the tournament the hardest game to win is your first one.  You saw a lot of low-scoring games around the area this week so for us to get one run early and tack on two more in the third was big for our pitcher.  And Dylan really gave us a chance with how he pitched.”

Still, five hits is hardly dominating from an offensive standpoint.  And were it not for the two unearned runs in the third Thobe and the Cavaliers might have faced the seventh inning with a 1-0 lead, instead of 3-0.

“That’s true, but sometimes that’s how it goes,”  added Harlamert.  “What we tried to do was make things happen.  We bunted, we ran, we were aggressive and tried to dictate the pace of things.  We put pressure on them and their third baseman made a few mistakes.  So yeah, it’s always a concern to score runs, but the idea is to get a ‘W’, regardless if you win 1-0, or 3-0.”

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Regardless of the margin of victory, the vehicle for victory was Dylan Thobe, who needed just an hour and eighteen minutes to finish off his masterpiece and send Coldwater to the tournament’s second round next week.

“Dylan’s been playing for three years and this is his time to be the ace, and he’s proving that.  He’s 6-1 and he’s had dominating games throughout the year.  So if we can ride that big boy for a few more games we like our chances.  We feel good about our defense, and as long as you can throw strike one, like he did today, you put pressure on the opposing team.  If you take away his first start of the year, he’s won six in a row and had one no-decision.  We’ve won each of his last seven starts and this time of the year it’s all about winning and moving on.”

They will move on to next week against an opponent yet to be determined by game’s end, but to Brian Harlamert it doesn’t make much difference when your pitching is anywhere near like Thobe on Friday.

“There’s no one pitcher or team out there that we’re afraid of,” he concluded.  “If Coldwater does its thing I feel like we’re in a position of being the team that’s hunted.  We know  there’s two or three pretty good teams out there, but we’ve already beaten a couple of them, so we feel good about our team and we like that challenge.  If we have Dylan Thobe on the mound and he pitches like he did today we have an edge…and we like that edge.”

He made 'em chase...Dylan Thobe got a head in the count and made Elmwood hitters swing at pitches out of the strike zone.

He made ’em chase…Dylan Thobe got a head in the count and made Elmwood hitters swing at pitches out of the strike zone.

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