COLUMBUS - Montpelier may not have won its Division IV state baseball semifinal against defending state champion Newark Catholic yesterday, but the scrappy underdogs from Williams County won respect.
Despite a superb effort from senior left-handed relief pitcher Joe Bohner, the unheralded Locomotives (16-9) fell 2-1 in 10 innings before a crowd of 1,299 at Ohio State University's Bill Davis Stadium.
About a thousand of those spectators made the trip from Ohio's northwest corner, and were loud from start to finish in support of a baseball program that had never before reached the final four and not even won a league title since 1956.
The Montpelier contigent gave its team a standing ovation even after Green Wave catcher and leadoff hitter Dusty Layton had singled through the third-short hole with two out in the bottom of the 10th to score teammate Chris Wolheter from third with the winning run.
“They were the team that was going to run the batting cages and we were just supposed to pick up the bats and balls for them,” coach Jay Jerger said of some overconfidence he picked up from Newark Catholic (26-5). “I think that maybe we've built a little respect now.
“I asked their coach [Scott Burkholder] after the game if he still thought we were just average, and he said, `Oh no, you guys are pretty doggone good.' Obviously we wanted to win, but we also want to build respect, and I think we did.”
Wolheter (3-for-4) tripled in the second inning, and singled and stole second before being bunted to third in the 10th.
His triple came off Locos lefty ace Chase Thomas, who was sick with food poisoning yesterday morning and afternoon.
Thomas yielded a first-inning run on a walk to Scotty Lake and Matt Haycock's RBI double. He had gotten one out and had two runners aboard in the third before his strength faded and Bohner got the call.
Used somewhat sparingly throughout the season by first-year coach Jerger, Bohner (2-2) pitched like the ace himself, allowing just four hits and the one run over 71/3 innings. He fanned five, walked none and helped his cause with an inning-ending 1-6-3 double play in the seventh.
“Joe's been a battler for us all year but, unfortunately, we found out just a little bit too late because we could've taken advantage of him earlier in the season,” Jerger said.
Bohner was the beneficiary of a diving catch in the seventh from Thomas, who moved to right field, and a terrific sliding grab from center fielder Greg Willibey in the ninth.
“Usually I'm like a three-inning, four-inning pitcher,” said Bohner, who threw 51 of his 74 pitches for strikes. “Going this far was a great feeling, especially going in with the pressure.
“They said we weren't good enough to play with them. Well, apparently, we were. We just came up short at the end.”
With this solid pitching and defense, Montpelier's undoing was its lack of offense.
The Locos managed just six hits against two Newark Catholic pitchers, starter Doug Stevens (eight innings, five hits) and reliever George Biddle (14-1). Half of those came from senior catcher B.J. Ogden.
Ogden, a .488 hitter, plated Montpelier's only run in the third inning. His double to the right-center gap brought Thomas around from first. Thomas had singled to left.39.96196 -83.00298