2023 OHSAA Tournament: Division IV State Final - No. 1 Hiland vs No. 5 Russia

Bruce Hefflinger
PBR Ohio Senior Writer

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2023 OHSAA Tournament: Division IV State Final - No. 1 Hiland vs No. 5 Russia

AKRON - Just when the momentum had turned to Russia, Berlin Hiland exploded for six runs and cruised to a 14-4 win in the Division IV state championship game at Canal Park on Saturday afternoon.

The victory capped off a remarkable season by the top-ranked team in Ohio, which finished 29-1 and won 23 straight to close out the year.

“It’s been a fun ride,” Hiland coach Chris Dages said. “We had some close games and a lot of extra-inning games. These guys battled. They don’t like to lose.

“This was the goal since the beginning of the year to win our last game and they did it today.”

Leading 4-0 heading to the bottom of the fourth, Hiland was closing in on that goal. But then Russia erupted for four and suddenly it was a tie game.

“There was a lot of energy on their side, we just had to keep the same energy on our side,” explained HIland senior shortstop Nolan Yoder about the feeling on Hiland’s side at that time. “I knew we could put something together.”

Yoder was a key part of a six-run fourth for the Hawks, hitting a leadoff double to start the frame and adding a two-run single to left to complete the scoring in the inning.

“They came in the dugout and knew this game wasn’t over,” reflected Dages. “We were hitting the ball pretty well already today up to that point and we kind of built off that. One guy gets on and the pressure switches to them. We just kept rolling that inning.”

Isaak Yoder hit a two-run double to deep center field in the frame and Colin Coblentz, Brady Yoder and Cody Yoder all had singles in the uprising.

The Hawks, which scored in every inning but the second, went on to put three on the scoreboard in the sixth and one more in the seventh, ending the game with 15 hits.

“It was a nice change from Thursday where we hit a lot of fly balls,” Dages said in reference to a 4-1 eight-inning win over Tiffin Calvert in the semifinals. “We really focused in our practice yesterday trying to hit gaps, hit line drives, hard balls, make them make plays to get us out and we did that today.”

Russia, whose runs came on a wild pitch, a run-scoring single by Zane Shappie, an RBI double to the warning track in right by Braylen Cordonnier and an RBI single from Brayden Monnin, could never recover after the Hiland six-spot.

Isaak Yoder, who came in to end the Russia uprising in the fourth, did not allow another hit over the final three innings, striking out the final five batters of the game against the fifth-ranked D-IV team in Ohio.

“He battled to get us out of that tough inning there,” Dages said of the senior right-hander. “I can’t tip my hat enough to him. He’s a battler. He doesn’t care what the situation is, he wants to compete and get the guys out.”

The victory gave Hiland its second state championship, the other coming in 2016.

“I’ve been playing with these juniors and seniors basically my entire life,” Nolan Yoder said. “To do this and end my career on this is a wonderful feeling. We got the job done and now we’re state champs.”


PLAYER OF THE GAME: A triple by Nolan Yoder in the third put Hiland up 2-0 and two hits by the senior in the fifth highlighted a six-run fifth inning for the Hawks. The three-hole hitter finished the game with three runs, three hits and three RBIs in his final game in a Hiland uniform.

D-IV TOURNEY CO-MVPs: Nolan Yoder not only had three hits and drove in three in the state finals but did not allow an earned run in five innings of the 4-1 semifinal win over Tiffin Calvert. The senior shortstop/pitcher finished 4-9 at the plate with four runs scored over the tournament. But you can not overlook a player who was the winning pitcher in both games. Isaak Yoder gave up one run on five hits in 6.2 innings of relief while striking out 13 and walking three over the two games.

AMAZING NUMBERS: Russia had 13 free passes in the game on walks or hit-by-pitches. … Out of 13 Russia players to reach base by walk or HBP, only two scored.  … Every starter for Hiland had a hit except leadoff hitter Alec Weaver, however Weaver reached base as many times as anyone on the Hawks (four times, the same amount as Nolan Yoder) via two errors, HBP and an RBI fielder’s choice when nobody was put out. … The two teams combined to leave 20 on base. Russia not only left 11 on base, but eight were in scoring position. … While Russia left 11 on base, the Raiders only had a hit in one inning. … Runners reached base in every inning for both teams until the bottom of the seventh when Isaak Yoder struck out the side.

FORGOTTEN IN THE LOSS: When a game is as wild as this one, outstanding plays can often be forgotten, especially when made by the losing team. Kudos goes to Russia center fielder Zane Shappie who made a pair of tremendous running catches to deep center field and another sliding catch coming in, each saving at least one run.

WHAT’S NEXT?: With two straight state tournament appearances, Russia’s nice run has not come close to ending. Six starters are underclassmen including two of their top three hurlers. … Hiland has some big holes to fill with three of the top five in the batting order and the top three pitchers lost to graduation. But the cupboard is far from bare with the return of six key members of this year’s squad, a group that combined for nine hits in the title game. 


Berlin Hiland  102  163  1  -  14  15  1
Russia             000  400  0  -   4    3   5

Records: Berlin Hiland 29-1, Russia 26-7

Winning Pitcher: Isaak Yoder (3.2 innings, 1 run, 3 hits, 8 strikeouts, 2 walks, 2 HBP). Other: Will Schlabach (3.1 innings, 3 runs, 0 hits, 5 strikeouts, 7 walks, 2 HBP)

Losing Pitcher: Cooper Francis (1.2 innings, 6 runs, 4 hits, 0 strikeouts, 1 walk, 1 HBP). Others: Braylon Cordonnier (3 innings, 4 runs, 2 earned runs, 6 hits, 2 strikeouts, 0 walks); Ross Fiessinger (1.1 innings, 3 runs, 1 earned run, 5 hits, 1 strikeout, 0 walks); Brayden Monnin (1 inning, 1 run, 0 earned runs, 0 hits, 2 strikeouts, 0 walks).

Leading Hitters: (Berlin Hiland) - Alec Weaver 2 runs, 2 RBIs; Cody Yoder 3 singles, run, 2 RBIs; Nolan Yoder single, double, triple, 3 runs, 3 RBIs; Colin Coblentz single, double, run, RBI; Isaak Yoder single, double, 2 runs, 2 RBIs; Brady Yoder 2 singles, run; Grady Monigold single, run; Braden Kaufman single, run, RBI; Connor Beachy single, 2 runs. (Russia) - Xavier Phlipot run; Zane Shappie single, run, RBI; Braylon Cordonnier double, RBI; Brayden Monnin single, RBI; Ross Fiessinger run; Cooper Unverferth run.

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