By Daniel Joseph
Times Bulletin Correspondent
DEFIANCE - The Van Wert Cougars traveled to Booster Stadium Tuesday night to take on the always tough Defiance Bulldogs. The Cougars swept a weekend doubleheader against the Delphos Jefferson Wildcats and looked to continue the streak.
It didn’t take long for the Cougars to get a runner on base as Bulldog starter Derek Turner walked Justice Tussing to begin the afternoon. Nate Stoller then sacrificed Tussing over before Williams doubled in the run, giving Van Wert the early 1-0 lead.
That lead didn’t last long, though, as Jimmy Bauer doubled to right field with one out in the bottom half of the first. Bauer was then awarded third base when Cougar pitcher Nate Stoller was charged with a balk. Austin Hancock singled up the middle, scoring Bauer and tying the game at one with only one out. Hancock then stole second and third base before Shay Smiddy hit a sacrifice fly to right field plating Hancock. Weaver, who was walked before Smiddy batted, stole second base as well as home plate giving the Bulldogs the 3-1 lead after one inning.

Van Wert led off the second inning with singles from Mason Carr, Ryan Stoller, Sean Miller, and Josh Braun, the last of which scored Carr. Justice Tussing then struck out before Nate Stoller singled to right field, scoring Ryan Stoller and Miller giving the Cougars the 4-3 lead after two innings.
Nate Stoller worked a scoreless second, but the third inning was a different story, though. The inning started with a double by Bauer, his second of the day. Bauer stole third base and scored on an error on the throw by the catcher, tying the game at four.
Hancock walked and stole second base before Tyler Weaver singled to center field. Shay Smiddy then tripled down the first base line and both Hancock and Weaver scored on the play making it 6-4 Bulldogs. Smiddy scored when Turner took one opposite field for a double, Defiance’s, fourth extra-base hit on the day. With still no one out in the inning and a runner on second, Van Wert brought in left handed pitcher Brant Henry in relief. Henry retired the first three batters he faced, buthe Bulldogs led 7-4 after three innings.
Henry struck out three of his first six batters he faced on the day without allowing a single runner on the base paths. Weaver changed this by drawing a five-pitch walk to begin the fifth inning. Defiance brought in Gage Cordray into pinch run for Weaver and he advanced to second when Smiddy walked. Cordray then stole third base and home plate when the Bulldogs successfully applied a double steal for the second time tonight. Defiance lead 8-4.
Van Wert posed a threat in the top of the sixth inning as they had runners on second and third with only one out in the inning, but JTussing and Nate Stoller both grounded out to end the late inning Cougar rally.
Senior Kevin Agler was called upon to pitch the sixth inning for the Cougars and he started the inning off well when Jacob Green flew out to the left fielder. It all fell apart for Agler and the Cougars after that as he surrendered a single and two stolen bases to Dom Gentile and hit Bauer on the arm. Bauer then stole second marking the eleventh stolen base that the Cougars allowed.
“Stolen bases are one of the little things that make a big difference,” said Van Wert head coach Charlie Witten. “They took advantage of those tonight. A lot of those were first and third situations where they got the stolen bases. They’ve always been a very aggressive team when it comes to base running and it’s tough on a pitcher and catcher when a team is running all over like that.”
Hancock singled to the outfield with only one out which scored Gentile and advanced Bauer to third base. After Cordray popped up in the infield, Smiddy hit a two-out two-RBI single to right field giving him his fourth and fifth RBI in the game. The Bulldogs took an 11-4 lead into the final inning of play.
Agler started the top of the seventh inning with a walk and he was then pinch run for by Henry, who re-entered the game. Williams then singled to left field but the ball went right under the fielder’s glove and both Henry and Williams advanced a base on the error. With runners on second and third with none out in the seventh, Gavin Gardner struck out looking and Mason Carr walked to load the bases.
Defiance brought in Hancock to finish the game. On the first pitch that he delivered, Ryan Stoller hit a shot over the shortstop’s head and into left field scoring Henry, with Williams scored on a throwing error by the third basemen. Miller then singled to right, which scored Carr, but Miller was forced out at second when Josh Braun hit into an RBI fielder’s choice.
With a runner on first and down just three runs, the top of the order came up to the plate for the Cougars. Tussing singled and Nate Stoller reached on a fielding error by the shortstop to load the bases for Henry. The rally ended there, however, as Henry grounded out to the second basement to end the game.
The bottom four batters in the Cougar lineup went an impressive 10-14 with four RBI and five runs scored in Tuesday’s loss to the Bulldogs. Josh Braun led the Cougar offensive going 3-for-4 with two RBI.
“We have a very solid order one through nine,” said Witten. “Josh Braun has really solidified that bottom part of the order for us since coming up from the JV team, and Sean Miller has had a really good year for us. Ryan Stoller has struggled a bit this year, but he is really coming on for us here of late. Mason Carr has been really good for us this year no matter where we hit him in the lineup.”
Van Wert out-hit the Bulldogs fourteen to ten in the loss and also were charged with one fewer error. Defiance had three more extra-base hits and ten more stolen bases, both stats proved to key in the game’s outcome.
“We spent a lot of time (Monday) in practice going over the fundamentals and working on baserunning,” said Witten. “It’s a lot of the little things that we are doing wrong, and we try to throw as many of those situations at the guys during practice so that they know what to do if it happens during a game.”
The Van Wert Cougars fall to 9-11 on the season and 2-6 in WBL play. The Defiance Bulldogs move to 16-4 on the year and 6-2 in the WBL.
Van Wert: 1 3 0 0 0 0 4 – 8 14 2
Defiance: 3 0 4 0 1 3 X – 11 10 3
Van Wert (AB – Runs – Hits – RBI)
Tussing (SS/2B): 4-1-1-0 ; N. Stoller (P/SS): 3-0-1-2 ; Henry (LF/P/PR): 4-1-0-0 ; Williams (RF): 4-1-2-1
Gardner (1B): 3-0-0-0 ; Carr (C/LF): 3-2-2-0 ; R. Stoller (CF): 4-2-2-1 ; Miller (DH/C): 4-1-3-1
Braun (3B): 4-0-3-2 ; X – Agler (P): 0-0-0-0
Defiance (AB –Runs – Hits – RBI)
Gentile (3B): 4-1-1-0 ; Bauer (1B/RF): 3-3-2-0 ; Hancock (SS/P) 3-3-2-2 ; Weaver (DH): 1-2-1-0
Smiddy (RF/P/SS): 2-1-2-5 ; Turner (P/1B): 4-0-1-1 ; Sierra (2B): 3-0-0-0 ; Detter (LF): 3-0-1-0
Green (CF): 2-0-0-0 ; X – Rankin(RF): 0-0-0- ; X – Castillo (PR): 0-0-0-0 ; X- Cordray (PR/C): 1-1-0-0
2B: Bauer, 2 (D) ; Turner (D) , Williams (VW)
3B: Smiddy (D)
WP: Shay Smiddy – 4.1 IP, 1 Run, 3 ER, 5 Hits, 3 BB’s, 6 K’s
LP: Nate Stoller 0 2.0+ IP, 7 Runs, 7 ER, 7 Hits, 2 BB’s, 0 K’s