Minster continued its run of hot baseball, beating New London and Kent State-bound pitcher, Ryan Lane, to advance to Saturday’s regional final.
By Stan Wilker for Press Pros
The Minster Wildcats were dominant in dismantling the New London Wildcats 6-1 in the first semi-final game of the Patrick Henry Regional Friday. The Mike Wiss-led Wildcats will return on Saturday at high noon to face the winner of the Leipsic, (22-5), vs. Edon, (13-11) game, with a trip to the State Final Four on the line.
The game was vintage Minster as the two-time state champs did all the things in this sweet 16 game that they have been doing the past 5 weeks en route to winning 17 of the last 19 games. With the current Wildcat run, much of the success begins with the pitching of ace Aaron Ernst.
According to Coach Wiss, “Aaron was totally focused, and spot on with all his pitches, in particular his breaking stuff.” The numbers certainly back up the Minster skipper as the senior righthander issued a single walk, struck out 8, and allowed a mere 3 balls to leave the infield in his distance going performance. One press box observer said of Ernst, “That young man is in complete control.”
While the latter portion of the game was relatively comfortable for the throng of Wildcat fans in attendance, the first inning gave the Auglaize County fans cause for concern.
After grabbing the early lead on a triple that was scorched to right center by Alex Lehmkuhl scoring Jon Niemeyer, who had singled, Ryan Lane, the ace of the New London staff, settled in and demonstrated the form that resulted in a 9–0 record with a 0.61 ERA and 116 K’s in 57 innings. By the time the dust settled Minster settled for a single run with Lehmkul stranded on third after the Lane whiffed the last two ‘Cat batters to end the first, and seemingly giving the Huron County ‘Cats the momentum going into their half of the first as he fanned the side.
New London seized this opportunity as the speedy lead off man, Jake Gerlack opened with a walk moved to third via a wild pitch and fielder’s choice and scored on a second wild pitch. In his post game comments Coach Wiss attributed the wildness to a case of nerves that we knew would disappear.
Another facet of the Minster game that is ever-present is its defense. For the game there were no errors for the Wildcats and the left side of the infield in particular was brilliant as Issac Schmeising and Adam Knapke made difficult plays look easy – routine. To add to his fine pitching performance, Aaron Ernst added 3 assists to his stat line for the day.
They didn’t hit that much, but Minster’s hitting was timely. Held to seven hits on the day, the Wildcats of Minster made the most of them, and complemented these hits with some aggressive base running, another hallmark of this team.
With the score tied at 1-1 the third inning opened innocently enough for New London as their ace rang up his sixth and seventh disaster strikes as Frosh catcher Peyton Wilson allowed passed balls on consecutive strike outs, coupled with two stolen bases and the stage was set for a smash single by second basemen Alex Lehnkuhl, breaking the tie, and an insurance run was added when Ben Stubbs cracked a single to move the score to 4-1 advantage, Minster.
Given thed cushion, the Wildcats and ace Aaron Ernst played like a team in total control as Ernst retired eight of the next nine hitters he faced. For good measure the Cats tallied single runs in the fifth with a steal of home by Ben Stubbs.
“It’s a play we’ve used for a long time”, stated Coach Wiss. With a reasonably comfortable lead and a one out single by Stubbs, who moved to third on a stolen base and error. The Wildcats had the perfect situation as Bryce Schmiseing walked, and as he passed first continued to second forcing a rundown that went 2-3-4-3 with Stubbs coming home during the infield action.
The men from Minster closed out scoring in the 6th without the aid of a hit on a walk to Jared Huelsman, a perfectly executed sacrifice by Issac Schmiesing and two wild pitches.
While recognizing the fact that his Wildcats are playing at a very high level in all phases of the game, Coach Wiss was lavish in his praise for his opponent, in particular the Kent State-bound Ryan Lane.
“There were times my players just came back shaking their heads,” said Wiss. “He’s a great competitor and I wish him all the success possible at the next level.”
The Minster mentor also felt it was very advantageous to have been able to scout New London in their District Final. “We felt very confident coming into this game knowing – what we could and could not do”.
And after 7 innings of baseball the Wildcats did what they have been doing for the past five weeks.
They focused. They executed, and WON!