Van Wert’s Josh Braun sprints toward third base, advancing on an errant pick-off attempt. Braun would later score on a sacrifice fly to the first baseman. (DHI Media/John Parent)
Van Wert’s Josh Braun sprints toward third base, advancing on an errant pick-off attempt. Braun would later score on a sacrifice fly to the first baseman. (DHI Media/John Parent)
By John Parent
DHI Media Sports Editor
VAN WERT — The Van Wert ACME baseball team jumped out to a quick 5-0 lead to back rising senior Brant Henry and roll to an 11-5 win over visiting Elida on Thursday night at Smiley Park. The win moves the Cougars to 2-0 on the young summer league season.
The Bulldog lineup was often overmatched against Henry on Thursday, though the Cougar southpaw worked himself into some trouble in the second inning, when his throwing error combined with a passed ball and a wild pitch eventually allowed two unearned runs to score. In that same inning, Henry recorded three strikeouts. He finished with seven on the day.
“He had a rough start there early, but he settled down nicely,” Van Wert coach Karlin Dunlap said of Henry’s outing. “He pounded the strikezone and gave us some good, solid innings.”
The Cougars wasted little time in attacking Elida hurler Adam Purdy. After Justice Tussing reached on an error to open the home half of the first, Joe Lisa drew a walk before Henry, Ryan Stoller, and Caleb Fetzer each followed with run-scoring singles. Before Purdy could retire a batter, he trailed by a 4-0 count. Ryan McCracken drove in the fifth Cougar run of the frame with a groundball.

“It gives our pitcher confidence. When you can spot him five early runs like that, they know they can go right after the opposing team,” Dunlap added. “It’s also a good sign of our patience at the plate; we’re waiting on good pitches to hit.”
The Cougars would tack on another in the third. Right fielder Josh Braun, who had doubled and stolen a base in the first, drew a 1-out walk and made it all the way to third when Purdy’s pick-off attempt went wide of the target. Braun’s speed was on display later in the inning when he tagged and scored on a pop-up to foul ground behind first base.
Henry was on cruise control through the middle innings, retiring seven of eight batters from the second through the fourth frames. In the fifth, the Van Wert defense opened the door for an Elida rally.
A dropped fly ball in center field put the leadoff man at second, a soft liner to third should have been a double play, but that ball was misplayed as well. Elida’s Josh Bull then grounded a ball up the middle that was smothered, but went as an infield hit, driving in a run. With still no one out in the inning, Austin Morrison lofted a pop-fly into shallow right field that no Cougar could track down, bringing the Bulldogs back to within 8-4.
Instead of imploding, however, the Cougar defense stiffened behind the left hander. Henry got Purdy to roll over on a ground ball that became a 4-6-3 doubleplay, effectively thwarting the Bulldog uprising.
“He gave us a lot of good stuff,” Dunlap added of his starting pitcher. “We know what we get with Henry most every game. It’s nothing new.”
Van Wert regained the momentum in the home half of the fifth when Bryan Mills and Jake Covey each reached base to start the inning. Three batters later, Henry stroked a 2-out single through the middle, bringing in both runners and giving the Cougars a comfortable 10-4 lead.
Van Wert travels to Celina on Saturday for a doubleheader with a first pitch in game one slated for noon.
Elida 020 020 1- 5 4 3
Van Wert 501 221 x- 11 11 5
Elida (5)
Bull rf, 3-0-1-1, Morrison cf 4-0-2-0, Purdy p 4-0-0-0, Snider 3b 3-0-0-0, Watkins c 4-1-1-0, Blymyer 1b 2-0-0-0, x- Holcomb rf 1-0-0-0, Edwards 2b 2-1-0-0, Stinson ss 2-1-0-0, Anderson lf 3-1-0-0
Van Wert (11)
Tussing 2b-ss 4-1-0-1, Lisa lf 2-1-0-0, x- Jenkins lf-3b 1-0-0-0, Henry p-lf 4-1-3-3, Stoller cf 4-1-2-1, Fetzer 3b 2-2-1-1, x- Williams 3b-p 1-0-0-0, Gardner 1b 3-1-1-1, x- Cross 1b 1-0-0-0, McCracken c 4-1-1-1, Braun rf 1-1-1-0, x- Mills rf 1-1-1-0, Williamson ss 0-0-0-1, x- Covey 2b 1-1-1-0
Elida pitching
Purdy (L) 4.0 IP 6 H 8 R 6 ER 5 BB 0 K
Bull 2.0 IP 5 H 3 R 3 ER 2 BB 1 K
Van Wert pitching
Henry (W) 6.0 IP 3 H 4 R 0 ER 2 BB 7 K
Williams 1.0 IP 1 H 1 R 1 ER 1 BB 0 K