BOWLING GREEN - Anthony Wayne sophomore pitcher Nate Sherman and junior outfielder Jon Holmberg played more like one of the eight Generals seniors who motivated the duo's clutch performances yesterday.
Sherman struck out three and allowed only five hits to lead Anthony Wayne to a 3-1 triumph over Mansfield Madison in a Division I district baseball final at Steller Field. Holmberg, the team's No. 9 hitter, drove in two runs to give AW the lead for good.
Sherman said the seniors drove him to throw a one-run gem to continue one of the best seasons in the program's history.
"I'm on cloud nine right now," Sherman said. "I'm on top of the world.
"This is such a tight team. We want to keep on winning so we don't have to see it end for the seniors."
Sherman also had two hits and scored a run to propel the Generals into a regional semifinal against Cleveland St. Ignatius next Friday.
"Coming into such a big game as a sophomore, I was definitely nervous," Sherman said. "But once I saw my defense making excellent plays behind me, I knew I could do this."
Holmberg plated AW's first two runs in the fourth inning and senior Thomas Hertzfeld smacked a solo home run in the sixth to help the Generals (21-4) return to the regional semifinals for the first time since 2000.
"This is a very special group," said AW coach Mark Nell. "The thing I like the most about them is their chemistry. The eight seniors are like brothers."
Sherman struggled with his control early, throwing 19 pitches in the opening inning while giving up one run on two hits. But the young hurler then settled in and did not allow any hits in the third, fourth and seventh innings to improve to 7-0.
"He's got something internally that makes him an unbelievable competitor," Nell said.
After leaving five runners stranded over the first three innings, the AW offense then took the lead with two runs on three hits in the bottom of the fourth.
Sophomore Josh Stidham led off the inning with his second single and Sherman followed with a single. Following a sacrifice bunt by senior Miguel Flores, Holmberg rapped a solid single up the middle, scoring pinch runner Colin Walton and Sherman.
"That was intense," Holmberg said. "I knew I had a job to do and it felt great to come up with a clutch hit that helped us get the win."
Stidham has only struck out three times in more than 90 at-bats, according to Nell.
"Stidham is Mr. Clutch," Nell said. "He always puts the ball in play. He has an exceptional eye."
Hertzfeld led off the sixth by crushing a pitch over the right field fence on the campus Bowling Green State University.
Anthony Wayne could win its first Northern Lake League in more than three decades with a win over Rossford on Tuesday. The Generals (10-1) have clinched at least a share of the NLL title and need just one victory to win it outright for the first time since the early 1970s.
The Generals also are one of just 16 teams still alive in the D-I playoffs and will play St. Ignatius at Shelby High School on Friday.
"We've always had thoughts of doing big things and we hope to continue to make them happen," Stidham said.
Contact Mark Monroe at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6110.