BOWLING GREEN — May was a month of late-inning comebacks and postseason heroics for Vermilion.
Until Friday, that is, when the Sailors found themselves on the wrong side of a late-inning rally.
Van Wert turned a one-run game into a rout, scoring 10 runs over the final two innings to defeat Vermilion 13-2 in a Division II regional final at Carter Park.
Vermilion’s stout defense, which allowed only 20 unearned runs during the regular season, committed four errors that led to eight unearned runs.
The Sailors were also limited to four hits by Van Wert starter Owen Treece.
Vermilion’s two runs came in the fourth inning on a Reese Miller sacrifice fly that scored Ridge Clark and a Noah Cacciatore single that drove in Mason Montgomery.
Although the season ended in a disappointing fashion, Vermilion coach Jeff Keck preferred to focus on his team’s accomplishments, including ending the year with a 22-9 record, winning the school’s first district championship in 28 years and a third consecutive Sandusky Bay Conference Bay Division championship.
“It was a tough ending,” Keck said. “I told my kids I don’t really want to talk about today, I want to talk about what this team did all season. We had the best year Vermilion baseball ever had. We were SBC champs, district champs and regional finalists. I’m really proud of these kids regardless of how today ended. It just wasn’t our day.”
Montgomery, who had an earned run average of 0.83 in the regular season, didn’t have his best outing against the Cougars, allowing three runs, one earned, six hits and three walks in 4 1/3 innings.
However, he kept the Sailors in the game and gave his offense a chance to battle back against Treese, who threw a complete game, striking out seven and walking one.
“Tip your hat to Van Wert, they just played better today,” Keck said. “Even then it was 3-2 going into the sixth inning. We played a good game. We had two bad innings, made a few mistakes and then they really hit the ball off of us.”
Van Wert scored three runs in the sixth inning with the big blow coming off the bad of second baseman Jake Lautzenheiser, who singled home a pair of runs.
The Cougars sent 12 batters to the plate in the seventh inning, scoring seven runs. Jalen McCrackern and Jaxson Amweg each had two RBIs in the inning to help send Van Wert to the state tournament for the first time.
“We just got on a roll there and everyone was confident and got their bats going,” Van Wert coach Charlie Witten said. “Vermilion has a good team and we expected this to be another low-scoring game but we have a good lineup one through nine and we had a good approach at the plate and it all came together at the right time.”
Vermilion had a chance to take a lead in the first inning when freshman Jack Wells led off with a single, advanced to second on a Sam Herron sacrifice bunt and moved to third with two outs on a Clark fly out but the Sailors couldn’t come through with a hit to drive him in.
“This loss hurts,” said Keck, who didn’t make any of his players available to the media. “Coming here all day long you’re thinking, ‘Could we go to the Final Four?’ It’s something you dream about but it just didn’t happen.”