By MICHAEL BURWELL
OTTAWA — It’s been an emotional season for the Ottawa-Glandorf baseball team.
From a heartbreaking 2-1 loss in 12 innings at the hands of baseball-powerhouse Defiance, to a walk-off RBI single to edge Wapakoneta 8-7 in eight innings a week later after trailing 7-1 entering the bottom of the sixth, the Titans have had their highs and lows.
But along with the sadness and triumph of those games, O-G also earned a sense of pride this season by becoming the first baseball team in school history to win the outright Western Buckeye League title.
In 47 years of WBL play before this season, the Titans (16-4, 8-1 WBL) earned a share of the 1982 WBL title with Defiance and the 1980 crown with St. Mary’s Memorial and Delphos St. John’s.
This year, they have the title all to themselves.
“It’s a surreal feeling,” O-G senior pitcher and third-baseman Matt Warnecke said. “I don’t think it’s still kicked in yet.
“It’s so crazy to think that we’re going to be remembered in history as the only team to ever win it all. It feels amazing.”
O-G has won 10 of its last 11 games, with the lone loss being to Defiance on April 25. The Titans had several chances to end the Bulldogs’ 71-game WBL winning streak, which was ended by Wapakoneta four days later, but they couldn’t pull it off.
A week later against Wapakoneta, however, with both teams at one loss in the league and Defiance picking up its’ second league loss, 7-3 to St. Marys Memorial, earlier in the night, O-G clinched at least a share of the WBL title. Tanner Schimmoeller ripped a walk-off RBI single up the middle to give the Titans the 8-7 win against the Redskins.
“It’s tough to talk about the Defiance game,” Warnecke said. “We had them, and just so much emotion was built up and then losing it. Just the feeling of anger and depression, it all kicked in at the same time.
“Then the Wapak game was crazy after the win. That was probably the greatest I’ve ever felt after a game.”
With Warnecke’s complete-game shutout in O-G’s 4-0 win over Elida on Tuesday, the Titans clinched the outright WBL title.
“The kids were extremely happy, and we preached ‘we don’t want to share this thing with two other teams or three other teams, let’s get this done all by ourselves,’” O-G head coach Nick Miller said. “And the kids responded, and there’s just no way that Elida was going to beat us. Going in, we had the right mindset, had a great pitching performance by Matt Warnecke, and we got some timely hits there to break it open.”
By earning the WBL title, the Titans’ chemistry on the field is clicking and their confidence level is high, with five seniors, seven juniors and two sophomores making up the roster.
“We have great camaraderie,” O-G senior outfielder Tyler Zender said. “We play relaxed, we enjoy being around each other and I think that helps us on the field. You know you want to win for the guy playing next to you and have that kind of mentality, and we have fun doing it.”
Pitching and defense has been the recipe for O-G’s success this season. The Titans’ three-man starting rotation of Schimmoeller (2-1 record, 1.98 ERA), Warnecke (5-2, 1.11) and Brad Croy (4-0, 2.26) have been dominant on the mound.
“Tanner sets the tone for us. He’s thrown a lot of big games for us,” Miller said. “Then you have Matt that’s thrown some big games and Brad Croy that’s undefeated this year.
“All three, when we send them out on the mound, we expect to win or at least be in a position to win, and they’ve done that on every start and hopefully that will continue for the rest of the year.”
Schimmoeller, who will pitch for the University of Cincinnati next year, has thrown in 351/3 innings this season while striking out 35 batters. Warnecke has pitched 372/3 innings with 28 strikeouts, and Croy has been on the mound for more than 21 innings. Along with those three, Ryan Maas (2-1, 3.00) threw a five-inning perfect game against Continental on Monday.
As good as the Titans’ pitching has been this season, the hitting has equally struggled. Only three players, Zender (.359 batting average), Croy (.339), and Warnecke (.327), are batting over .300.
“Our bats, they just haven’t been there this year, but we’ve won our games on pitching and defense and like we’ve said, we can win a lot of games that way if you don’t give teams extra outs and you’re throwing strikes,” Miller said.
Whether it’s holding on or coming back to win, the Titans have had several close calls. Nearly half of O-G’s games have been decided by one run, and they’ve come out on top six times.
“There’s just been no quit in those guys,” Miller said. “They’ve battled until the last pitch in every game and this year, we’ve been fortunate on a lot of close games this year of winning some late games.”
O-G, a fourth seed in Division-III, will open the Ohio High School Athletic Association baseball tournament today at home against Lima Central Catholic at noon. The Ada district has several tough teams, including No. 1 seed and five-time state champion Coldwater (20-3), followed by St. Henry (20-2) and Liberty-Benton (19-3).
“The WBL title really gave us a ton of confidence going into tournament, but we also know that people aren’t going to back down for WBL champs,” Zender said. “You have to earn it, and we have a tough district with Coldwater, St. Henry, even LCC that first game. We’re going to have to come to play every game or else anything can happen in tournament.”
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By MICHAEL BURWELL