ELIDA, Ohio — The freshman had all of two varsity at-bats to his name when Genoa coach Ron Rightnowar signaled for him to swing away with the season in the balance.
Jarod Brossia was called off the bench in the sixth inning of a tie game to be a small part of a Division III baseball regional semifinal game against Lima Central Catholic.
The idea: Lay down a no-out bunt to advance Genoa’s leadoff man from second base to third. Then a balk by Thunderbirds pitcher Nick Watkins accomplished just that, and suddenly plans changed.
“I put it in my mind that on that first pitch, I was going to swing at it,” said Brossia, a recent addition from the junior varsity team.
Staying true to the script, he delivered.
Brossia’s laced the next pitch into right field for a 4-3 lead. The Comets, a team without a senior, added four more runs that inning for a 8-3 victory.
Genoa (20-9) fell behind 2-0 on a first-inning error, held steady behind sophomore starter Luke Rightnowar, and ultimately rallied. The Comets tied the game with a two-run single by Rightnowar in the fourth, pushed ahead with a run in the fifth, and wiped out any suspense in the sixth. Brossia’s pinch-hit single touched off a five-run inning.
The Comets, who have a starting lineup of four juniors and five sophomores, will play Bloom-Carroll (24-4) at 5 p.m. in today’s regional final at Elida Middle School — one win away from the school’s third trip to the state semifinals. Genoa also reached it in 1974 and 1999.
“I would have believed it,” said Ron Rightnowar, a former minor league pitcher who spent part of the 1995 season with the Milwaukee Brewers. “I don’t know that I could have predicted this.”
He added: “We’re trying to re-establish a once-very proud program. The kids have bought in, and they’re playing pretty well right now.”
They did not always make it easy. Lima CC (19-13) scored twice in the first on a sacrifice bunt gone awry as an on-target throw from catcher Nick Wolfe sailed past second baseman Casey Gose, who was covering first. And the Comets twice popped out on bunts in the first four innings.
Yet Genoa had seen these signs of youth before.
“That’s kind of typical,” Ron Rightnowar said. “They are going to do that. It’s just a matter of whether we’re good enough to overcome it. The game is really hard to play. In a big spot, they’re going to make some mistakes. I don’t flip out about that. I want them to learn to play over them. If you’re going to be a champion, you’ve got to come back.”
Said Luke Rightnowar: “I was a little mad [early], but I knew that we’re a really good offensive team, and we’d get the runs back. I just knew I needed to hold them there.”
He did. Pitching to contact with his sinker, Rightnowar did not strike out a single hitter but induced one groundout after another in throwing a complete-game five-hitter.
All the while, the Comets’ defense tightened — Gose later made a diving play to rob a sure single up the middle — and the lineup stirred. Genoa tagged Lima CC starter Colin Stolly for three runs over 4 2/3 innings, then piled on in the sixth.
The Comets opened the inning, in order, with a double by Rightnowar, a single by Brossia, a bunt single by Logan Scott, and back-to-back doubles by Gose and Cody Pickard.
Gose and Rightnowar each finished with two of the Comets’ 10 hits.