A St. Marys baserunner beats a throw to Van Wert first baseman Gavin Cross during the first inning of the ACME sectional final on Wednesday. The ‘Riders won the game 8-6. (DHI Media/Jim Metcalfe)
A St. Marys baserunner beats a throw to Van Wert first baseman Gavin Cross during the first inning of the ACME sectional final on Wednesday. The ‘Riders won the game 8-6. (DHI Media/Jim Metcalfe)
By Jim Cox
DHI Media Correspondent
CONVOY - With a district berth assured, Van Wert ACME coach Karlin Dunlap had two goals for Wednesday evening’s sectional final against St. Mary’s: (1) Get some at-bats for some players who haven’t had them recently. (2) Win the game. He nearly got both. However, the Roughriders escaped with an 8-6 win. In Saturday’s Elida district, at 10 a.m. Van Wert (13-6) will play Lima Central Catholic. At about 12:30 p.m., St. Mary’s (10-1) will take on Bath. LCC knocked off the Wildcats in the East sectional final on Wednesday.
Van Wert had four regular starters — Justice Tussing, Joe Lisa, Gavin Gardner, and Josh Braun — on the bench at the beginning, and regular catcher Ryan McCracken was on vacation. Tussing (as a pinch runner), Lisa (substitute catcher), Gardner (pinch hitter), and Braun (relief pitcher) eventually got into the game, although only Braun saw extended action.
“We have some good bats on our bench,” said Dunlap. “We have a lot of kids that haven’t gotten an at-bat in about a week, so I wanted to get them some at-bats. That way if we need to rely on them at districts, we’ll be able to do that.”
When asked if a one seed versus a two seed at districts is a big deal, Dunlap added, “Not to me. We’ve haven’t seen either one of those two teams. We don’t really know what we’re getting into either way. We were just mainly concerned with the pitching that we’re gonna use, just to set us up best for districts.”

The Riders jumped on Cougar starter Ethan Williams for seven runs, five earned, in the top of the first.
Williams threw a whopping 43 pitches, 22 strikes, in that frame before being relieved by Braun with two outs. Braun would turn in an admirable performance for the remaining six and a third innings, but the damage was done.
In the meantime, St. Mary’s right-hander Marshall Lininger appeared to have things under control. However, after the Riders scored their only run off of Braun in the third to stretch the lead to 8-0, the Van Wert offense came to life in the bottom of that inning. With one out, center fielder Ryan Stoller walked, as did second baseman Jake Covey (the first of three free passes to Covey). Left fielder Brant Henry blasted a double to deep left, plating Stoller. Catcher Mason Carr was hit by a pitch, filling the sacks. Braun then blistered an opposite-field liner, but it was right at first sacker Michael Hastreiter, who turned it into an unassisted double play, leaving the score at 8-1.
Van Wert made it interesting in the bottom of the sixth. First baseman Gavin Cross started the inning with a single up the middle. Lininger struck out the next batter, but third baseman Caleb Jenkins lined a single to right. Shortstop Jacob Williamson took a pitch to the ribs to fill the bases. Lininger was then relieved by Matt Douglas. Stoller bashed a single to center to make it 8-2 and leave the bags full. Covey walked to make it 8-3. Henry bounced to short, and the throw home was wild, scoring two more. Lisa, who came in to catch after Carr was injured by a foul tip, grounded out to second, bringing in the sixth Cougar run. Douglas, however, allowed no more base runners in the game.
Lininger got the win, giving up four runs, three earned, on four hits in five and one third innings. He struck out eight, walked four, and hit three batters. Braun gave up only one run, earned, on seven hits, walking nobody, hitting one, and striking out four.
“We like him (Braun) coming out of that bullpen,” said Dunlap. “He did a great job. He’s one of the main reasons we were in the game. He shut ‘em down, lulled ‘em to sleep, and let us get back in it. We showed some great fight. We had a tough day today, some other stuff going on, and to get down by seven runs early, that can be demoralizing, but I was glad to see us get back in the game.”
St. Marys 701 000 0- 8 11 2
Van Wert 001 005 0- 6 5 2
St. Mary’s (ab-r-h-rbi)
Becker cf 4-2-3-1, Maze 3b 3-1-1-0, Fitzgerald c 4-1-4-1, Eberle pr 0-0-0-0, Douglas dh/p 2-1-0-1, Quellhorst lf 2-0-0-1, Jay lf 1-0-0-0, Lininger p 4-0-0-1, Pfenning 1b 0-0-0-0, Howell ss 4-1-2-1, Harbaun rf 3-1-1-1, Young rf 1-0-0-0, Burke 2b 4-1-0-0, Hastreiter 1b 0-0-0-0. Totals 32-8-11-7.
Van Wert (ab-r-h-rbi)
Stoller cf 3-2-1-1, Covey 2b 1-0-0-1, Tussing pr 0-1-0-0, Henry lf 3-0-2-1, Carr c 2-0-0-0, Lisa c 1-0-0-1, Williams p 0-0-0-0, Braun p 3-0-0-0, Cross 1b 4-1-1-0, Mills rf 3-0-0-0, Gardner ph 1-0-0-0, Jenkins 3b 4-1-1-0, Williamson ss 2-1-0-0. Totals 27-6-5-4.
Doubles: Harbaun (SM), Henry (VW); LOB: St. Mary’s 7, Van Wert 8; Double Plays: Hastreiter unassisted (SM), Jenkins to Covey to Cross (VW); WP: Lininger LP: Williams