PBR Spotlight game: No. 1 Defiance vs. No. 6 Wapakoneta

By Dylan Hefflinger

TIFFIN- The No. 6 ranked Wapakoneta Redskins got on top of No. 1 ranked Defiance early and rode the arm of talented sophomore Chace Culver and some exceptional defense to earn a berth in the Division II Final Four for the first time in school history.

The Redskins jumped out to a 5-0 lead after just three innings and cruised the rest of the way to a 6-1 victory over the top-ranked Bulldogs, which topped Wapak 3-2 earlier this season in Western Buckeye League action.

Facing junior Rob Zeigler for the second time this season, the Redskins found success early scoring the first run of the game in the second as junior catcher Brandon Schrieber blooped a single over first base, before moving to second on a walk to junior Marshall Gerlach. After a sacrifice bunt by junior Andrew Hines, junior Dom Campos hit yet another blooper to right. The Redskins ran themselves out of another run as Gerlach tried to score on the play and was easily gunned down at home by sophomore second basemen Austin Hancock.

Wapak broke the game open in the next frame as they tallied four more runs. Junior centerfielder Johnny Crawford led off the third with a single to right-center and an infield single by junior Brandon Miller put runners at second and third. Sophomore Chandler Kaeck laid down a sac bunt to move the runners up 90 feet and Gerlach hit a routine grounder to short, which was misplayed leading to one run and allowing two runners to move into scoring position.

With the Bulldog infield in, Hines hit a two-run single up the middle to bring an end of the day to Zeigler, a Kentucky recruit. Zeigler allowed five runs on eight hits and two walks, while striking out just one. Zeigler was consistently in the upper 80s with the fastball, topping out at 91.

The Redskins added an insurance run in the fourth as Kaeck drove in Crawford with a bloop single to left, after Crawford reached on a fielder's choice to put Wapak up 6-0.

The Bulldogs best opportunities came in the fourth and sixth innings. In the fourth, unsigned senior Joe Gentile was gunned down at home on what seemed to be a questionable call at best. In the sixth with two outs and two runners on Louisville recruit Anthony Kidston drove a ball to deep center which Crawford made the play of the game on. The center fielder completely laid out to make the catch on the warning track to save two runs, which emotionally drained the Bulldogs.

The Bulldogs would not just roll over though as they scored in the bottom of the seventh as Gentile drove home junior Joe Keween with a single to left. But it was all Defiance could muster against Culver.

Culver went the distance allowing just one run on eight hits and one walk, while striking out eight. Culver got all three of his pitches over, painting his fastball on all four corners of the plate, with the velocity sitting in the 80-85 mph range. The righty also featured a curve and change that he threw with confidence.

Wapakoneta (24-5) advances to face No. 9 ranked West Holmes (23-6) at 10 a.m. on Thursday in the state semifinals. Defiance closes out its exceptional season at 30-2 for head coach Tom Held.