In a battle befitting two of the state's top-rated high school baseball teams, Defiance had the final say last night in rallying for a 4-3 victory over Southview at Fifth Third Field.
The Bulldogs (23-1), Ohio's No. 3 ranked Division II team, were down to their final strike on six pitches before Alex Nofziger walked to load the bases. Dace Kime then delivered a game-winning two-run single to center.
It was the third lead change in the game's final inning and a half.
"Southview's a talented team, and Eddie Mouch is a great coach," Defiance coach Tom Held said. "To be able to play and compete with them and the talent they have, I'm proud of our guys.
"Our pitchers did a great job against a good hitting team, and we got some timely hits when we needed them."
In a statistical irony, Defiance reliever Steve Hammersmith (6-0) needed only one pitch to earn the win, while Kime's hit gave the loss to Cougar starter David Vandercook (4-2) on his 124th offering.
Southview (18-2), ranked No. 2 in D-I, took its second one-run loss of the season. The Cougars fell 2-1 at fifth-ranked Perrysburg in Northern Lakes League play on April 23.
"It was a very good high school baseball game," Southview coach Ed Mouch said. "Our kids battled all the way through. We'd been in situations all year long where we've been down and scored runs in the seventh inning to take the lead or win a game.
"We did a nice job against quality pitching today, but they did a nice job coming back too."
Hammersmith came on to retire Vandercook on a bases-loaded flyout after Southview had rallied for two runs off the Bulldogs' second pitcher - hard-throwing 6-foot-9 junior Eric Stapleton - in the top of the seventh.
Cougar Everett Barton scored the tying run on teammate Andy Joseph's clutch, two-strike execution of a suicide squeeze bunt. Southview catcher Dan Ampthor then made it 3-2 after singling to center and eventually scoring on a bases-loaded passed ball by Bulldog catcher Dakota Westrick.
Kime - the Defiance right-handed ace who will either pitch for the University of Louisville on full scholarship or turn pro based on his lot in the June 2 Major League draft - held Southview hitless for four innings before Stapleton relieved to start the fifth.
"It was a great game and a lot of fun," Kime said. "[Vandercook] threw that first-pitch curveball for a ball and I knew the fastball was coming and sat on it and drove it up the middle [on his winning hit].
"Them going ahead didn't really bother us. We were excited. It was fun to have that kind of adversity and come back and win."
Defiance took a 1-0 lead in the third inning when designated hitter Shea Murray led off with a single and later scored on an RBI single by Nofziger (2-for-3).
Southview tied it in the fifth despite still being no-hit to that point. Cam O'Reilly reached on an error by Bulldog shortstop Jacob Moore, and later scored on Joseph's RBI groundout.
Defiance retook the lead in the sixth. Nofziger singled leading off, moved up on Kime's groundout, and scored on Corbin Stykemain's sharp single to left.
Cougar senior ace Kirk Stambaugh, who is scheduled to pitch in Southview's crucial NLL showdown against Perrysburg tomorrow, had two of his team's three hits in this game.
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