2022 OHSAA Tournament: Division III State Final - No. 7 Waynedale vs No. 22 Milan Edison


Dylan Hefflinger and Bruce Hefflinger
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2022 OHSAA Tournament: Division III State Final - No. 7 Waynedale vs No. 22 Milan Edison

AKRON - It goes through the mind of every ball player growing up. It became a reality for Connor Gatti.

Deadlocked at 1-1 in the bottom of the eighth, the senior stepped to the plate and delivered a two-out bases-loaded single to give Waynedale a 2-1 win over Milan Edison in the Division III championship game Saturday afternoon.

“Everyone dreams of being in this moment and I got lucky enough to be put in that position,” Gatti reflected on his memorable hit that gave Waynedale its first state title in school history. “It felt great. I said to myself that this is the moment. Right now is when we’re going to win a state title.”

WIth the count at 1-1, Gatti lined a base hit to center bringing home Josiah Raber with the game-winning run for the seventh-ranked D-III team in Ohio, playing with heavy hearts after the loss of schoolmate Deegan Bee in a car accident this past week..

“I trust a lot of our guys, Connor Gatti would definitely be one I’d want up in that situation,” Waynedale head coach Lucas Daugherty said. “He’s got a great demeanor, he can work at-bats and can hit a lot of different pitches. He doesn’t try to do too much, so I had a lot of faith in him.”

The Gatti heroics brought an end to a pitching battle between Edison righty Ben Bates and Waynedale southpaw Otto Solorzano. Bates surrendered an unearned run in the first and the Chargers tied it off Solorzano in the fifth on a Thomas Simon RBI hit following a single and stolen base by Bryce Michaelis.

Bates struck out nine and allowed six hits with Solorzano giving up nine hits and fanning seven in the complete -game performance.

“Otto is an awesome kid and obviously a really good pitcher,” Daugherty said of the sophomore. “He got hit around a little bit but you couldn’t tell with his composure and the way he threw there in the sixth, seventh and eighth. He made some big pitches in big situations and gave us a chance.”

Braden Hershberger led off the last of the eighth with a high hop infield single and Dylan Raber, who produced two hits in the game, followed with a sac bunt. After an intentional walk to Josiah Raber, a ground ball to third ended in a putout before Timmy Short walked to load the bases for Gatti.

“It was a tough situation to be in a tie ballgame going into extras with a state title on the line,” Daugherty said. “I think our guys really stayed composed and our at-bats that last inning we did just enough.”

Thomas Simon, Clint Finnen and Blake Simon each had a pair of hits for the 22nd-rated team in Ohio, competing in the Final Four for the first time ever.

HOT TAKES

PLAYER OF THE GAME: Produce the winning single in extra innings and with it comes Player of the Game accolades. “It was a fastball up and away and I took it up the middle,” Gatti said of the biggest hit of his life. “That’s what we’re trained to do and that’s what I did.”

D-III TOURNEY MVP: A save in an eight-inning semifinal win over Liberty Union and a complete-game victory in the finals is worthy of MVP honors for Solorzano, who was adopted by his aunt and uncle who live in the school district and moved in from Nicaragua at the beginning of the summer. In nine innings on the hill over the tournament, the southpaw did not walk a batter while striking out eight and surrendering 10 hits.

ANOTHER STANDOUT: Josiah Raber had four hits in the two state games, scoring a pair of runs including the game-winner in the finals, reaching base six times in eight plate appearances.

BIG IN DEFEAT: If not for the play of Milan Edison catcher Dominic Dymond, Waynedale may have been able to scratch across more runs. But the backstop for the Chargers threw out two potential base stealers, one in the first frame when the Golden Bears scored their initial run and another in the third when two of the first three Waynedale batters had singles. Dymond nearly was the hero in the top of the eighth, but with two on and one away, his shot down the left-field line hit the fence just foul.

WHAT’S NEXT: With Bates on the mound, Edison has big potential next season. Sophomore Blake Simon and juniors Clint Finnen, Hayden Fry and Dymond are others to build around after combining for 10 hits in the two games at state. Head coach Sean Hoover will enter the 2023 campaign with 290 wins. … Both starting pitchers from the Final Four return in Solorzano and Trey Barkman to go along with Gatti, Short and Dylan Raber for Waynedale.

LiNESCORE

Milan Edison       000  010  00  -  1  9  3
Waynedale           100  000  01  -  2  6  0

Records: Waynedale 27-4, Milan Edison 24-9.

Winning Pitcher: Otto Solorzano (8 innings, 1 run, 9 hits, 7 strikeouts, 0 walks).

Losing Pitcher: Ben Bates (7.2 innings, 2 runs, 1 earned run, 6 hits, 9 strikeouts, 3 walks).

Leading Hitters: (Milan Edison) - Thomas Simon 2 singles, RBI; Clint Finnen 2 singles; Dominic Dymond single; Brady Barker single; Blake Simon 2 singles; Bryce Michaelis single, run. (Waynedale) - Dylan Raber 2 singles;Josiah Raber single, 2 runs; Connor Gatti single, RBI; Ean Miller single; Braden Hershberger single.

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