AKRON — The Hilliard Darby High School baseball team did everything it could to beat Cleveland St. Ignatius in a Division I state semifinal except for one thing: Get timely hits.
The Panthers stranded 16 runners on base and lost 4-3 in a state tournament-record 13 innings on June 7 at Canal Park.
“It’s baseball,” coach Mike Weer said. “We gave ourselves several opportunities, too many to recall right off hand. But we’ll look back through everything later.
“It’s a tough way to finish, but I am so proud of everyone in this program. We had a remarkable season and I truly think we outplayed (St. Ignatius) for most of the game.”
The Panthers, who finished 24-8, outhit the Wildcats 9-7 and St. Ignatius made all three errors in the game.
Seth Schmidt took the loss despite allowing just four hits in nine innings of relief. He walked two and struck out four while throwing 113 pitches.
“I just tried to do everything I could to keep us right there,” said Schmidt, who relieved starter Connor Maruniak in the top of the fifth with Darby trailing 3-2. “I just wanted to keep going back out there every inning and keep them scoreless so we could get another chance at them.”
But in the top of the 13th, St. Ignatius’ A.J. Gaich led off with a single and moved to third on a one-out single by Michael McNamara. Michael Holdsworth, a Nebraska commitment, then hit a sacrifice fly to center field to drive in Gaich for what proved to be the winning run.
The Panthers were retired in order in the bottom of the 13th.
Darby had tied the game at 3 in the bottom of the seventh, as Andrew Patrick singled, Paxton Schwandt walked and Mason Bowers singled to load the bases with no outs and Kyle Miller grounded into a double play that scored Patrick.
“We put ourselves in position to score a lot more, but we couldn’t come up with the big hit all game,” said Patrick, who went 3-for-6 with a walk and scored all of the Panthers’ runs. “It was frustrating because we were right there. But that’s baseball.”
Bowers had an RBI single in the first inning and Miller had a sacrifice fly in the third to give Darby a 2-0 lead.
The Wildcats answered with three runs in the fourth. Maruniak breezed through the first three innings, but allowed three hits, including a triple, and two walks in the fourth.
St. Ignatius improved to 23-8 and will play Mentor (22-5) in the state final June 9 at Canal Park. Mentor beat Springboro 4-0 in the other semifinal June 7.