Back and forth on a frigid evening, senior Dylan Thobe delivered Coldwater over Liberty Benton for their fourth straight win.
Coldwater – Frankly, it was an evening where only penguins wanted to play baseball.
Cold and the wind blowing out of the northwest, the scoreboard thermometer at Veterans Field in Coldwater read 49 degrees at first pitch Friday.
Not even close.
A call to weather.com confirmed that it was more like 42, with wind chill hovering around 35. So, you and the 50 people who showed up for Friday high school baseball between Coldwater (4-1) and Liberty Benton (2-2) get the picture. It was cold, and despite the sun shining brightly, it was miserable.
But Brian Harlamert’s young Coldwater Cavaliers got off to a hot start, scoring single runs in each of the first two innings. Venerable coach, Lou Brunswick, watching from the warmth of the enclosed press box, smiled approvingly. Clutch hits by Dylan Thobe and Nathan Grunden did the trick in the first – and Brad Giere pulled the trigger for the RBI in the second.
But Liberty, a team known for being the alma mater of Ohio State hoops standout Aaron Craft, found their way onto the scoreboard in the top of the third, scoring twice on an RBI single by first baseman Griffin Snyder, one of his three hits on the day. Cold already, suddenly it got downright frigid.
Coldwater and Giere scored again in the bottom of the fourth to take a 4-3 lead, thanks to Grunden’s second hit of the day.
But Liberty came back to score in the top of the fifth of sophomore reliever Jacob Wenning, in his second inning of work.
Tied at 3, it appeared that Liberty had the momentum and a hot pitcher, with hard-throwing Wyatt Young on the mound to start the sixth inning.
But a walk to Giere, a base hit by shortstop Sam Broering, a wild pitch, and a huge two-RBI single by Thobe, his second knock of the day, sent ahead to a 5-3 margin. An out later Ryan Knapke rapped another single to center to score Thobe for a 6th run, and there you have it. Despite Liberty mounting a rally in the top of the seventh to cut the deficit to 6-4, Coldwater found a way to win by that same margin – their fourth consecutive win of the season.
It was a nice, ‘young’ win in the words of coach Brian Harlamert for a team that in no wise resembles Coldwater teams of recent years. Gone are the thumpers in the middle of the lineup – the Aaron Harlamerts, Malave Bettinger, Brody Hoying, and so on. Gone are the veteran arms like Kyle McKibben from just a year ago, who pitched the Cavaliers through every big game necessary, or so it seemed.
At 4-1, this is a team in the making, learning through on-the-job training, and trusting in the legacy of expectation. Friday’s win was a prime example.
“We are a very young team,” admitted Harlamert afterwards. “We have three guys who played last year, and two of them are sophomores. So for us to just play solid baseball today – it wasn’t great baseball – it was a big win. We pitched a first-year varsity junior (Seth Miller) and two sophomores (Jacob Wenning and Cole Frilling). So it was a big win for us, because we started out poorly with a bad loss to Vandalia Butler, but we’re playing better now.”
Coldwater won it with 6 runs, 8 hits, 4 errors and left 10 men on base. Cole Frilling, the second of two relievers, got the win.
Liberty Benton, a team that actually hit the ball harder, finished with 4 runs on 9 hits, committed 3 errors and likewise, left 10 men on base. Wyatt Young, the second of two relievers for Liberty Benton, took the loss.
But to dwell on the age-old axiom of senior leadership, and what experience in the middle of any lineup can mean, Dylan Thobe, of football, basketball, and baseball seasoning, came through with the game’s biggest hit…and when it meant the most.
“Sure, and he and Ryan Knapke (another senior) both there in the sixth inning,” said Harlamert. “Dylan’s been around now for three years. He had a good at bat early in the game, he got a good pitch to hit and just put the barrel on the ball. He didn’t try to do too much. He’s one of our leader guys and because of his experience he felt good in the batter’s box when we really needed a base hit.”
For a team that’s accustomed to competing for MAC titles, Harlamert and the Cavs are looking forward to a wide-open field for 2017, without a prohibitive favorite, despite Versailles returning a solid nucleus from their Division III state semi-final team of a year ago.
“For sure,” added Harley. “It’s wide open with teams that have some good arms – we’ve got a couple of ’em – but I think it’s gonna’ be tough for everyone. For us, we’ve got to get on top, we’ll play more small ball than we’ve played in the past, but it’s going to be a fun year, and a fun league.”
What was really fun Friday was getting to the warmth of the new clubhouse facility built behind the Cavaliers’ home dugout – out of the wind, to savor a classic win against a team that refused to go away just because they were playing Coldwater, in Coldwater.
If Dylan Thobe felt good in the batter’s box in the fateful sixth, he felt all the more better where it was twenty degrees warmer…and without penguins.