Whiteoak’s baseball team traveled to Columbus on Thursday to participate in the second game of the Division IV State Semifinals at Huntington Park. The Wildcats saw their hopes of playing for the D IV State Title dashed by the Hicksville Aces as they lost 4-1 to complete their season with a 28-3 record.
Wildcat’s Head Coach Chris Veidt talked about what it meant to reach the Final Four with this year’s team.
“It meant everything in the world to me, like I said before. After 27 years, I’m glad it happened at this point in my life honestly. It probably meant more and you don’t take it for granted as much. The thing is I don’t want the kids, the school or our community to think that this is one of those once in a lifetime type deals. We’ve talked about these guys being the roots of the bamboo tree and how you toil and you work and it takes time before you grow. We have all intents and purposes of being back again,” Veidt said.
Evan Brill, who was 9-0 on the season, got the nod against the Aces and pitched four innings. Brill allowed four runs, two earned, on five hits while walking one batter. Brill struck out two, threw two wild pitches and hit one batter as he threw a total of 65 pitches before being relieved by Traeten Hamilton to start the fifth inning.
Hamilton pitched two innings of shutout baseball with three strikeouts and faced only six batters to get six outs.
The Wildcats struck first with Hamilton scoring the only run of the game for Whiteoak in the top of the first inning. Hamilton, batting in the leadoff spot, reached on a throwing error by Ethan Wilhelm at third base and advanced to second. Chase Carraher advanced Hamilton to third on a ground out to Gage Yoder at second base.
Caleb West followed with a second grounder to G. Yoder that scored Hamilton from third to put the Wildcats up 1-0 early. Brill then drew a walk in the next at bat but was caught trying to steal second for the third out of the inning.
Hicksville responded in the bottom of the first with two runs to take the lead at 2-1. Parker Thiel drew a walk in the leadoff spot for the Aces and Lukas Yoder advanced Thiel to second on a ground out to Brill. Jake Greer then singled through the right side of the infield to put runners on first and third for Hicksville.
A wild pitch by Brill allowed Greer to advance to second base before Zac Brickel singled to center field to score Thiel from third and advance Greer. Brickel stole second after initially being caught in a run down but Greer threatening to steal home was enough to deter an extended chase by the Wildcats. Eric Chapman was hit by a pitch in the following at bat and loaded the bases.
Braden Langham reached on a fielder’s choice as Chase Carraher gobbled up a hard hit ball to short stop and tossed it to second to get Chapman and the throw from Hamilton at second to Ryan Roberts on first was ruled to have pulled Roberts off the bag nullifying the double play. Greer scored from third on the play for the Aces second run of the inning. Brill got Ethan Wilhelm to strike out swinging to end the inning.
Greer, the starting pitcher for Hicksville, turned up the heat in the top of the second as he struck out all three Wildcats he faced in the inning and used only nine total pitches. In the bottom of the second Brill got two fly outs, one to left and one to right, and picked off a runner at first to hold the Aces scoreless and send the game to the third at 2-1.
With two outs in the top of the third inning Hamilton slammed a monster double to the right center field wall but was left on base when Carrher popped out to short in the next at bat.
Hicksville added their final two runs in the bottom of the third as Brickel drove in Lukas Yoder on a towering double to right field that just missed leaving the yard. Brickel scored the second run of the inning for the Aces on a sacrifice fly ball by Chapman.
Greer and Brill made short work of the fourth inning as Greer struck out three straight Whiteoak batters for the second time in the game and Brill only faced four batters to get three outs in the bottom of the inning.
The fifth saw Greer throw only 11 pitches as he recorded three straight strikeouts for the third time. Hamilton relieved Brill in the bottom of the inning and forced a ground out to Roberts at first before retiring the next two batters with strike outs as they each looked on.
Following a quiet sixth inning that saw both teams go down in order, the Wildcats got their final chance in the top of the seventh inning. Caleb West flied out to right field and Brill struck out looking after being ahead in the count 3-0 to put Whiteoak one out away from elimination. Mason Lehr singled to third base and Zach Harless replaced him at first as a pinch runner. Harless stole second and advanced to third on a wild pitch before Trever Yeager struck out looking to end the game.
Veidt talked about the game and the nature of high school baseball after the loss.
“I thouhgt we did a great job there, a good sign in the first inning, manufacturing that run, that’s what we do. Then he settled in and it was Jake Greer’s day today, unfortunately it wasn’t ours. That’s the nature of high school baseball at this level. You don’t have another game, you don’t play seven game series, you play one and done and he was good enough to knock us out unfortunately,” said Veidt.
Reach Ryan Applegate at 937-402-2572, or on Twitter @RCApplegate89.