BOWLING GREEN -- Maumee baseball coach Cam Coutcher could see his team's district title hopes slipping away.
An 8-1 lead over Ashland after the top of the fifth inning quickly became 8-5, and the momentum had shifted.
The sixth inning was disastrous for Maumee, as Ashland brought 12 men to the plate. With each batter that stepped into the batter's box, you could see the body language of the Panthers change.
Ashland broke through for six more runs and held on to win 11-8 on Saturday afternoon in the Division I district final at Carter Park in Bowling Green.
"You saw what happens to a team when you kind of get deflated a little bit," Coutcher said. "It's tough when you've got such a big lead and you feel good. I don't think our kids ever felt comfortable though. I thought we battled, and we just came up short today."
Maumee started the game quickly with five runs in the first inning. Kurt Weber drove in two with a double, Joe Szymanski hit an RBI single, and David McCrum knocked in the final two runs of the inning on a line drive in the right-center gap.
Ashland answered with one run in the bottom half on an RBI single by Steven Mowry.
Maumee added two more runs in the third when Jason Blair hit a two-run homer over the left-field fence.
Panther senior Billy Laranga started the game on the mound and pitched well through four innings. He ran into trouble in the fifth and was taken out of the game as he started to lose his control. He hit two batters in a row and then walked the next.
Junior Allen Brown came on with the bases loaded and no one out. He allowed four runs to score, three of which were charged to Laranga.
Brown stayed on to pitch the sixth and allowed four runs after an error, two walks, an infield single, and a two-run double. With two outs in the inning and runners on first and second, Steve Duby came in to relieve Brown. Duby walked the first three batters he faced, allowing two more runs to score.
"That's baseball," Coutcher said of the Ashland comeback. "You have to make plays. I thought Allen threw okay. He got us in a situation where we could've made plays. A couple things happened, and we just didn't make enough plays to win the baseball game today. They were the better team through seven innings than we were."
Saturday marked the final game for Maumee's seven seniors -- Laranga, Blair, Weber, Ray Secondo, Justin Koepfer, Bobby Knode, and Evan Karchner. Although it's not how they wanted to go out, Coutcher recognized what they meant to the school.
"They're great kids," Coutcher said. "They've done a lot for our program over the past four years. I think six out of seven have been four year guys for us. It's just sad to see them go and go out in a situation like this."
Maumee finished the season with a 17-10 record, but this loss will likely linger more than the others.
"It's really tough, especially being in this dugout with all these great guys," Laranga said. "We should've won that game, but there's nothing you can do now. It's tough because it's my senior year, so it's the end of Maumee baseball for me."
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