Van Wert freshman Caleb Fetzer delivers a pitch during the first inning of the Cougars’ 9-1 loss to Celina on Friday night. Fetzer was making his first varsity start and held the Bulldogs to one hit in 4.1 innings of work, but took the loss. (Times Bulletin/John Parent)
Van Wert freshman Caleb Fetzer delivers a pitch during the first inning of the Cougars’ 9-1 loss to Celina on Friday night. Fetzer was making his first varsity start and held the Bulldogs to one hit in 4.1 innings of work, but took the loss. (Times Bulletin/John Parent)
By John Parent
Times Bulletin Sports Editor
VAN WERT — In the middle of a six-game-in-five-day stretch, the Van Wert Cougars simply ran out of pitching. Facing Western Buckeye League foe Celina on Friday night at Smiley Park, Cougar coach Charlie Witten had little choice but to give the ball to a freshman, Caleb Fetzer, who was making his first varsity start.
Though Fetzer battled his nerves and the strikezone, the experienced Bulldog hitters waited him out and eventually walked away with a 9-1 win. The loss, Van Wert’s fourth straight, drops the Cougars to 7-10 on the season (2-5 WBL). Celina moves to 7-8 with the win and 3-5 in the WBL.
Fetzer worked around a walk and an error to strand two runners in the opening inning, but things fell apart for him in the second. Ahead in the count, Fetzer plunked Stephen Fleck with a pitch to start the inning, then walked the next batter on five pitches. After a sacrifice bunt moved the runners up, a walk to nine-hitter Seth Lonsway loaded the bags with one out. Fetzer looked like he might escape without any damage when he got Kaleb Kuhn to pop-up for the second out, but back-to-back walks forced home two runs before a fine defensive play by third baseman Josh Braun ended the Bulldog rally.
With the Cougars retired on just eight pitches in their half of the frame, Fetzer barely had time to breathe before he was right back out there in the third, but he showed poise and maturity in working through the next two innings. He allowed a hit to lead off the third, but sat down the next three hitters, including a pair of strikeouts. In the fourth, the only baserunner of the inning came on a strikeout/wild pitch, but the Bulldogs did not score.

“We can certainly take some positives from Caleb’s effort,” Witten said following the game. “Once he found his curveball in that third and fourth inning, he could mix (his pitches) and throw that for strikes. I guess that just kind of points out how, at this level, you’ve got to have two good pitches that you can throw for strikes.”
Already at over 80 pitches, Fetzer went back out for the fifth, still trailing by just two runs. Unfortunately, things began to unravel for him and his command once again, and this time, the Cougars were unable to quash the Celina rally.
Consecutive walks opened the inning for Celina before catcher Mason Carr corralled a foul pop-up to secure the first out of the fifth. After another walk left the sacks drunk, Celina’s Justin Keeling dropped a successful squeeze bunt, scoring a run for the Bulldogs. Keeling was ruled safe at first when Fetzer’s throw pulled Justice Tussing off the base.
Instead of two outs and runners at second and third, a situation that Van Wert might be able to wriggle out of down only three, The bases were loaded with one away and Fetzer forced home another run when he issued a walk to Lonsway.
“Obviously, (Fetzer) walked way too many guys, and we just gave them way too many runs,” Witten noted. “But I’m confident in him. He’ll bounce back and he’ll have a good start the next time we get him up here (to the varsity team).”
Celina then busted the game open with back-to-back hits off of reliever Jacob Braun. A single by Kuhn and a double by Jacob Homan brought four more runs to the plate, leaving the Cougars staring up at an 8-0 hole.
The Cougars, meanwhile, could manage very little at the plate. The conditions being what they were (cold and windy), the Van Wert hitters weren’t making a lot of solid contact. When they did, the ball didn’t carry. Van Wert put together a pair of hits in the third, but neither left the the infield. They didn’t get another scoring opportunity until the sixth, when Brant Henry split the left-center field gap, advancing Nate Stoller, who had walked, to third. Stoller would score when Tyler Williams grounded out. Henry was left stranded at third.
Van Wert managed just four hits on the day.
“It was kind of disappointing because of how we had been hitting the ball,” Witten said of his team’s offensive effort. “We certainly didn’t do enough offensively (today), which surprised me, because that’s where we’ve been strong.”
Braun worked a perfect sixth, but allowed a hit and a run in the seventh. He pitched the final 2.2 innings for the Cougars.
“With two games coming (Saturday), it was pretty much that Jake was going to finish it once he got in there,” Witten added.
Van Wert wraps up a long week with a doubleheader at Delphos Jefferson on Saturday. For Witten and the Cougars, the end of this stretch of games can’t come soon enough.
“We need a day to practice is what we need,” said the Cougar coach. “That’s the thing in baseball, you go through the spring practicing indoors, then, when it’s nice, you’re playing games and when it’s not nice you’re not playing games, so it’s tough to work on some little things. And we definitely need to work on things to get better.”
Celina 020 060 1- 9 4 0
Van Wert 000 001 0- 1 4 1
Celina (ab-r-h-rbi)
Kuhn p 5-1-1-2, Homan ss 3-0-1-3, Vogel cf 3-0-0-0, McGillvary dh 1-0-0-0, x- Smith pr-dh 1-1-0-0, Luebke c 3-1-1-0, Felck rf 2-1-0-0, x- Chapman ph-rf 1-0-0-0, McCarter lf 2-3-1-0, Keeling 2b 1-1-0-1, x- Sneddon 2b 1-0-0-0, Lonsway 1b 1-1-0-2
Van Wert (ab-r-h-rbi)
Tussing 2b 3-0-1-0, N. Stoller ss 2-1-0-0, Henry lf 1-0-1-0, Williams rf 3-0-0-1, R. Stoller cf 3-0-0-0, Carr c 3-0-0-0, Gardner dh 3-0-2-0, Agler 1b 3-0-0-0, Jo. Braun 3b 2-0-0-0, x- Lisa ph 1-0-0-0
Celina pitching
Kuhn (W) 7.0 IP 4 H 1 R 1 ER 2 BB 5 K
Van Wert pitching
Fetzer (L) 4.1 IP 1 H 7 R 7 ER 9 BB 4 K 1 HBP
Ja. Braun 2.2 IP 3 H 2 R 2 ER 0 BB 1 K