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Published: Sunday, 6/3/2007

Elmwood falls short in baseball title bid

BY STEVE JUNGA
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Ryan Rothenbuhler, left, and Josh Irick console each other. Ryan Rothenbuhler, left, and Josh Irick console each other.
JOE MAIORANA Enlarge

COLUMBUS - The Elmwood Royals' run at a Division III state baseball championship came up one win short last night, as Heath grabbed an early lead and held on for a 6-3 win in the title game at Cooper Stadium.

Elmwood (26-7) fell behind 4-0 after four innings before answering with two runs on four hits in the fifth.

The Royals, who were making their first appearance in the final four, went down swinging.

They scored a run on three seventh-inning singles, but it was not enough as Heath (22-7) picked up its second D-III state crown since 2002.

"They've got frowns on their faces, but when you get this close it's disappointing," Royals coach Kyle Reiser said. "It doesn't make any difference right now to them what the effort was and how far we got.

"They wanted to win today. But, as time goes on, they're going to look back and see an outstanding opportunity, an outstanding tournament run and a cherished memory they're going to have for a long time."

An error led to Heath taking a 1-0 lead off Elmwood starter Adam Sheline in the bottom of the first inning.

Bulldogs pitcher Dusty Elk singled to left and moved up when Royals catcher Nathaniel Fitch's attempted pickoff throw skipped past first baseman Jon Aurand into right field.

Elk came around with the unearned run on Chuck LaRue's ground single through the middle.

Sheline escaped a bases-loaded jam in the second, getting Elk on a fly to Ben Hammer in right field after sandwiching a walk to DH Drew Wethey between singles by Jordan Maier and Nick Jones.

The Royals right-hander yielded a run in the third inning, but avoided further trouble thanks to the hustle of center fielder Bo Sheldon.

With the bases loaded with one out, Heath catcher Kevin Sharrock lined a 2-1 offering from Sheline to center.

Sheldon, who just missed on a diving catch, popped up in time to force Maier at second. Sheline then retired Kyle Fancher on a popup to Fitch to keep the deficit at 2-0.

Sheline (9-2) was not so fortunate in the fourth when some control problems led to his exit and enabled the Bulldogs to add two more runs.

He walked Wethey, allowed a single to Jones and hit Elk on an 0-2 pitch to load the bases for the third straight inning. He then walked LaRue to force in a run, and was relieved by Andrew Lee after yielding a sacrifice fly to retreating shortstop Cory Stewart.

"They did what we've been doing to people all along," Reiser said of Heath. "They got the early lead, they kept the pressure on us, and they had a pitcher with good control that mixes up his speed and kept us off balance.

"They took away some opportunities we had and they capitalized on theirs.

"They executed when they needed to."

Greg Day singled to right-center off Elk (8-2) with one out in the fifth, and successive two-out singles from Fitch, Hammer and Ryan Rothenbuhler pulled the Royals within 4-2.

"We gave it our best shot," said Rothenbuhler, a senior captain and the winning pitcher in Friday's semifinals.

"The last couple innings we started swinging like we knew we could. We hit at the end, but it was a little too late. We got this far, so it was a heck of a season."

Heath added a run in its half of the fifth off Lee. Sharrock was awarded a single after his high pop fly dropped in between second baseman Day and Aurand to start the inning.

Sharrock subsequently scored on a sacrifice fly.

Contact Steve Junga at:

sjunga@theblade.com

or 419-724-6461.



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