Heath High School baseball coach Dave Klontz and third baseman Cole Anders didn't waste any time facing the music.
FAIRBORN -- Heath High School baseball coach Dave Klontz and third baseman Cole Anders didn't waste any time facing the music.
Both willingly stepped forward for interviews immediately after the awards ceremony following a Division III regional final last Friday at Wright State University. The Bulldogs squandered a 3-1 lead in the bottom of the seventh inning and lost to Hamilton Badin 4-3 to finishe 26-5.
"I'm not hiding from you guys," Klontz said to reporters, forcing a smile.
Anders, a senior, drove in all of Heath's runs.
"You can credit them for playing a good game," he said. "We played out butts off. É We got back to a regional final (a year after winning the state championship but graduating the team's top two starting pitchers), and I think that's a pretty good accomplishment."
Newark Catholic also faced harsh reality last Friday, falling to Berlin Hiland 5-2 in a Division IV regional final at Lancaster to finish 22-7.
Anders staked the Bulldogs to a 1-0 advantage in the first inning with a double to score Nick Jones. He added a two-strike, two-run single in the third, bringing home Jordan Maier and Chuck LaRue. Both hits came with two outs.
"Two-strike hitting is the most important hitting," Anders said.
Yet it wasn't enough. Steven Kidwell pitched into the seventh inning and allowed just four hits, including a run-scoring single by Badin's Nate Hubbard in the bottom of the fourth. Kidwell gave up back-to-back singles in the seventh before giving way to ace Alex Van Dine, who had thrown 120 pitches during a nine-inning starting effort a day earlier in a 2-1 victory over Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy in a regional semifinal.
Van Dine gave up three consecutive singles, with Nate Jackson and Tony Cassano coming through with run-scoring hits to tie the game with one out.
"We didn't want to lose the game with Alex standing in right field," said Klontz, whose team was making its fourth regional appearance this decade, including another state championship season in 2002. "We thought he might come in and get a ground ball."
With Kidwell back on the mound for the eighth, Hubbard led off with a single and moved to second on a sacrifice.
After consecutive walks loaded the bases, Klontz replaced Kidwell with Trey Matthew, whose first pitch was in the dirt and got past catcher Kevin Sharrock and Hubbard scored the winning run as the Rams improved to 25-6.
"Everybody's going to feel bad about the last two innings," Klontz said. "But I feel bad about us failing to bunt and scoring when we had chances in the middle innings."
• QUITE A RUN -- The state tournament will not include a Licking County team for the first time since 1999.
Since then, area teams have combined for nine berths and seven state championships, including Lakewood in Division II in 2005. The Green Wave won consecutively from 2002-04 and added another in '06.