Northwood’s Justin Rohrs is congratulated by coach Dave Russell after the first of his two home runs against Delphos St. Johns.
HAMLER, Ohio — Northwood baseball coach Dave Russell had already seen his senior third baseman, Justin Rohrs, pound a home run over the right-field fence.
So when Rohrs led off the sixth inning of the Division IV regional semifinal game against Delphos St. John’s, Russell knew what to ask for.
“I told him, ‘Don’t be afraid to hit [the ball] to the right side, Justin,’ ” Russell said. “If the pitcher threw him an outside fastball, I wanted him to take the ball to right field again.”
Russell got exactly what he asked for: An outside fastball that Rohrs hit over the fence in right for his second home run. From there Northwood added a valuable insurance run to claim a 4-3 victory against the Blue Jays at Patrick Henry.
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The Rangers (19-10) will play Tinora (18-7), who beat McComb 11-1, in the regional final at 2 p.m. today at Patrick Henry.
Rohrs hit his first home run leading off the fourth inning after Delphos St. John’s pitcher Curtis Geise challenged him with an outside fastball. The home run was helped by a wind that blew out to right field at roughly 20 miles per hour.
“I’ve been struggling lately,” Rohrs said. “The coaches all told me, ‘You don’t have to pull the ball — [Geise] is throwing hard enough that all you have to do is put the ball in play, especially with the wind.’
“I was expecting the curveball [in the sixth]. But I when I saw the fastball on the outside corner, I just tried to drive it.”
Things started poorly for Northwood, which found itself in a 2-0 hole when starting pitcher Nick Russell battled wildness. Delphos St. John’s (11-15) took advantage of a walk, a wild pitch, two hit batsmen, and an infield error for its pair of first-inning runs.
But Russell, a senior, notched a bases-loaded strikeout to escape the first, then kept the Blue Jays scoreless in the second despite two more hit batsmen and two infield hits.
Northwood catcher Myles Habel tags out Delphos St. Johns pitcher Curtis Geise during the second inning in Hamler, Ohio. Northwood won 4-3.
“I had some nerves,” said Russell, who finished with 10 strikeouts but also two walks, four hit batsmen, and three wild pitches. “But once the game went on, I felt more comfortable and threw more strikes.
“[The first inning] could have been worse. I’ve always been told to never give up. It’s a seven-inning game, not a one-inning game.”
The Rangers chipped into that lead with a run in the bottom of the first. Evan Perkins walked, raced to third when John Segura chopped a bunt into the hole vacated by the second baseman covering first, then scored on a wild pitch.
“We got out of that [first inning] very cheaply,” Dave Russell said. “Getting out of that [having allowed] two runs was good for us. And scoring [in the bottom of the first] took the edge off of it.”
Northwood added an insurance run in the sixth after Rohrs’ second home run gave them a 3-2 lead. Myles Habel singled, moved to second on a sacrifice by Jacob Davenport — with Davenport reaching base on an error — and eventually scored when Brandon Hoffman was hit by a pitch to load the bases and Jordan Schell was hit by a pitch to force in a run.
That run proved invaluable when the Blue Jays scored in the bottom of the seventh. With two outs and a runner on first, the Rangers’ third error kept the game alive, and a single scored a run and put the potential tying run on third.
But Nick Russell struck out Craig Klausing to seal the win.
“Getting that insurance run was big,” Dave Russell said. “We would have liked to have gotten a couple more runs with the bases loaded, but we were happy with a two-run lead and Nick on the mound.
“We’re peaking at the right time. And we’re going to ride it out.”
Contact John Wagner at:
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