The Hilliard Darby High School baseball team made its mark in its first appearance in the state tournament.
The Panthers lost to Cleveland St. Ignatius 4-3 in 13 innings in a Division I state semifinal June 7 at Canal Park in Akron to finish 24-8 overall. It was the longest game played in the 92-year history of the state tournament.
"We had no errors in a 13-inning high school baseball game, Seth (Schmidt) pitched his tail off and we gave ourselves every opportunity to win," first-year coach Mike Weer said. "We rallied to force extra innings in our last at-bats and we really played very well on our first time on the big stage. We just couldn't finish it.
"I am so proud of those guys, not only for today, but the way they came together, jelled and made a great run like this."
The Panthers stranded 16 runners on base and outhit the Wildcats 9-7.
St. Ignatius managed just four hits in the final nine innings off Schmidt, who relieved starter Connor Maruniak in the top of the fifth. Schmidt walked two and struck out four while throwing 113 pitches.
Schmidt allowed only two hits against the Wildcats until the 13th inning, when A.J. Gaich led off with a single, moved to third on Michael McNamara's single and scored on a sacrifice fly to center field by Austin Jones.
Darby was retired in order in the bottom of the 13th.
"It's a tough way to finish, but I am so proud of everyone in this program," Weer said. "We had a remarkable season and I truly think we outplayed (St. Ignatius) for most of the game."
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 three stolen bases and scored all of the Panthers' runs. "It was frustrating because we were right there, but that's baseball. We played our butts off but came out on the wrong end of it. These are the kinds of games we usually win, but we just couldn't get that key hit."
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 before St. Ignatius scored three runs in the fourth on a triple, two singles and a pair of walks off Maruniak, who had breezed through the first three innings.
Bowers and Miller both had two hits against St. Ignatius, which beat Mentor 4-2 in the state final June 9.
"It's been a fun ride," Schmidt said. "As seniors, it's incredible to be the first ones to make it to state. None of us (seniors) are playing in college, so every game in the postseason could (have been) our last forever, not just this season."
Darby went 11-3 in the OCC-Cardinal Division, finishing one game ahead of runner-up Dublin Scioto (10-4) to earn its fifth consecutive league title.
The Panthers are losing nine seniors, including five starters in Schmidt (P), Bowers (LF), Miller (3B), Ryan Eatherton (C) and Drew Snyder (2B).
Snyder batted .378 with 24 RBI, 25 runs scored and two home runs and was named first-team all-district and league Player of the Year, and Miller was first-team all-league and honorable mention all-district after batting .374 with 16 RBI, 21 runs and nine stolen bases.
Schmidt was 5-3 with one save and a 1.91 ERA in 66 innings and batted .250 and was special mention all-league, and Bowers, who missed five games with an injury, hit .352 with 18 RBI and 17 runs and was honorable mention all-league.
Eatherton threw out 14 of 26 runners trying to steal.
Five starters are expected to return in juniors Maruniak (P/CF), Garrett Mudgett (RF) and Nick Skelsky (1B) and sophomores Patrick (CF/P) and Schwandt (SS).
Patrick hit .395 with 19 RBI, four triples, 23 runs and 23 stolen bases and was 6-0 on the mound with one save and a 1.62 ERA with 28 strikeouts in 34 2/3 innings. He was named second-team all-league and first-team all-district.
Maruniak, who was 8-2 with a 1.52 ERA and 54 strikeouts in 55 1/3 innings, also was second-team all-league and Schwandt, who batted .290 with 26 runs, made honorable mention all-league.
Other expected returnees are juniors Nick Cecil (P/OF), Nick Perie (INF), Cole Shrodes (P/OF) and Jack Stultz (P/OF) and sophomores Alex Chawla (OF) and Jake Swartzmiller (INF).
"We really haven't done anything different than what my predecessor, Chris Fugitt, did," said Weer, who was named league Coach of the Year. "We're still preaching and doing our thing. Darby baseball hasn't changed. Chris set the table and we just ate a little bit more this year. We believe if you throw strikes, make routine plays and run the bases well and have a good approach at the plate, you'll be successful.
"It's a pretty simplistic approach, but it produces good results at the high school level."