In the tournament first true shocker, Warren Champion knocked out undefeated, and top-ranked Berlin Hiland, the state’s defending champ, to capture the Division III title.
Columbus – The contingent from Holmes County sat by in stunned silence Saturday morning.
Warren Champion, in their third trip to the OHSAA state baseball tournament, knocked out this weekend’s most prohibitive team, the undefeated, top-ranked, and defending champion Berlin Hiland Hawks (31-1) to capture the Division III title.
Not that it was a total surprise, because Champion (27-3) entered the tournament as the state’s second-ranked team. But no team all spring had scored more than three runs on Hiland; and the Hawks were armed with a pair of front line starters, Braden Mast and Mitch Massaro, that both had sub-1.00 earned run averages.
But Champion starter Andrew Russell was not intimidated by the stats or the record. The sophomore righthander coolly navigated his way through a complete game, seven-hit shutout, striking out eight and walking just two. His was clearly the most impressive pitching performance of the tournament thus far, given the stress component.
Champion scored its lone run in the bottom of the first inning on a hit batsman, a ground out, and a single to center field that scored Lucas Nasonti with the game’s ONLY run.
Russell clung to that lead like a bulldog, facing just 31 Hiland hitters while escaping a base-loaded jam in the fifth inning when he fanned the final out in the inning.
Hiland was seeking its second consecutive baseball title, while Champion actually won its first after two previous appearances in the Final Four. Hiland was also seeking to become the state’s first undefeated champion since 2012, when Jonathan Alder did it with a 34-0 record.
Stay tuned to Press Pros for update throughout the day, including comprehensive coverage of Minster vs. Russia in the Division IV final to be played at 4 pm.