Van Wert’s Justice Tussing breaks for third during a stolen base attempt during the fourth inning of the Cougars’ 9-0 win over Riverdale on Saturday. Tussing went 1-for-4 witn two RBI in the game. (Times Bulletin/John Parent)
Van Wert’s Justice Tussing breaks for third during a stolen base attempt during the fourth inning of the Cougars’ 9-0 win over Riverdale on Saturday. Tussing went 1-for-4 witn two RBI in the game. (Times Bulletin/John Parent)
By John Parent
Times Bulletin Sports Editor
VAN WERT — Aggressiveness on the basepaths is something that Van Wert coach Charlie Witten has preached to his players this season. On Saturday, as the Cougars took on Riverdale in a Division III sectional semi-final at Smiley Park, Witten had his players take it up a notch.
The Cougars stole four bases against the Falcons and frequently took extra bags on balls hit to the outfield, applying pressure to the Riverdale defense. That plan led to four unearned runs and a 9-0 Cougar win. Van Wert (10-13) advanced to visit St. Henry in a sectional final game on Thursday evening.
“We had scouted them a little bit, and knew we’s be able to run, knew we could be a little more aggressive than normal on the basepaths,” Witten remarked. “The kids executed what we asked them to do today. We did what we should have done today.”
Riverdale hurler Garrett Loveridge retired the first two Cougar hitters of the game, and looked like he might cruise through the opening inning when Van Wert pitcher Brant Henry hit a shallow fly ball to left. The Falcon outfield lost the ball in the high sky, however, and it fell safely in for a two-out double. From there, things fell apart for the Falcons.

A line-drive single by Tyler Williams scored Henry and Williams promptly swiped second base. Mason Carr then hit a routine ground ball that became anything but when the third baseman overthrew first, allowing Williams to score and Carr to go all the way to third. The next Cougar batter, Ryan Stoller, hit a long fly ball to deep center field, and Riverdale’s outfielder got to it in time, but couldn’t squeeze the ball in his glove. The three-base error brought Carr in to score the third Van Wert run. Stoller then scored when Gavin Gardner dropped a base hit into short right field.
On the other side, Henry battled his mechanics throughout the game, but often overpowered the Falcon hitters.
He went to a full count on each of the first two Riverdale batters, fanning one and walking the next, before getting the next two to escape a scoreless first. His second inning included a base hit and a hit batsman, but also a strikeout and a pop-up.
Riverdale had runners on base in each of the first six innings, in fact, including loading the bases in the fifth. Henry issued four walks and allowed two hits on the day, but he also fanned seven and worked the complete-game shutout.
“Sometimes he has a tendency to rush, or overthrow a little bit,” Witten explained, speaking of Henry’s effective wildness. “Once he can get slowed down and he’s good mechanically, he gets the ball in the zone. We were hoping Brant could get all the way through (seven innings) today and he did. We’d just like to see him get a little bit more pitch-efficient.”
The Cougars sealed the game in the fourth, when they scored five times against a pair of Riverdale pitchers.
Stoller singled and stole second before Gardner popped out to short. Sean Miller, then, connected for a deep fly ball that sailed over the head of left fielder Evan Hayes for a run-scoring double. After a wild pitch moved Miller to third, a walk and a stolen base by Josh Braun had Cougars at second and third with only one out. Second baseman Justice Tussing then roped a single through the left side, scoring both runs and putting Tussing at second on a wild throw to the plate.
That spelled the end of the day for Loveridge, as he was replaced by left hander Paul Frey. Tussing swiped third on Frey’s first offering and scored on Nate Stoller’s ground ball to short. Stoller was safe on the play thanks to a bad throw, and wound up scoring the final Cougar run when Williams lined a single into left-center.
“Our nine guys we’ve got in the lineup are pretty solid,” Witten continued.
Van Wert faces Paulding on Monday and Bryan on Tuesday in regular-season action before getting ready for a rematch with St. Henry on Thursday. St. Henry handed the Cougars a 14-2 loss at Smiley Park last week.
Riverdale 000 000 0- 0 2 3
Van Wert 400 500 x- 9 8 0
Riverdale (ab-r-h-rbi)
Ty. Miller ss 4-0-0-0, Davis 3b 2-0-1-0, Frey 1b-p 3-0-0-0, Loveridge p-1b 2-0-0-0, McKee dh 3-0-1-0, Bowman c 3-0-0-0, Stewart 2b 1-0-0-0, Clark rf 3-0-0-0, Tr. Miller cf 2-0-0-0
Van Wert (ab-r-h-rbi)
Tussing 2b 4-1-1-2, N. Stoller ss 4-0-1-1, Henry p 4-1-2-0, T. Williams rf 3-1-2-2, Carr lf 3-1-0-0, R. Stoller cf 3-2-1-0, Gardner 1b 3-0-1-1, Miller c 3-1-1-1, Braun 3b 1-0-0-0, x- Agler ph 1-0-0-0
HBP- Stewart (by Henry)
SB- Tussing, Williams, R. Stoller, Braun CS- Henry (by Loveridge/Bowman)
2B- N. Stoller, Henry, Miller
LOB- Riverdale 7, Van Wert 4
Riverdale pitching
Loveridge (L) 3.1 IP 7 H 8 R 5 ER 1 BB 1 K 1 WP
Frey 2.2 IP 2 H 1 R 0 ER 0 BB 1 K 1 WP
Van Wert pitching
Henry (W) 7.0 IP 2 H 0 R 0 ER 4 BB 7 K