THE PLAINS, Ohio — This time, the Marauders were on the wrong end of an extra-inning marathon classic.
That’s because — despite digging deep and battling back from a 5-0 deficit to forge a 5-5 tie and thus extra innings — the Meigs High School baseball team lost a 9-5, 11-inning affair to the Circleville Tigers on Monday in the Division II district semifinals at Athens High School’s Rannow Field.
The Tigers tallied an unearned run in the opening inning, then scored once more in the fourth — before opening up a seemingly improbable 5-0 lead following three more runs in the fifth.
But Meigs, which up until the fifth had only a Cody Bartrum infield hit to lead off the second and not a single ball out of the infield, mastered a comeback against Circleville starting pitcher Trevor Hemming.
The Marauder bats busted out, scoring four runs on four hits and a walk to close within a point (5-4) — followed by another marker in the fifth following a leadoff walk, Bartrum’s third hit of the day, and a well-placed sacrifice bunt on safety squeeze for the tying run.
However, the Marauders couldn’t cross for that winning run when they needed to the most.
Over the course of the final seven innings, Meigs left one runner on base in every inning but a 1-2-3 ninth, while the Tigers — despite stranding a massive 17 runners — tagged Marauder ace Chase Whitlatch for four runs in the top of the 11th and ultimately the 9-5 win.
“The main thing was that I was proud of our kids. They didn’t quit. To battle back like that from down 5-0, it’s the type of kids we had this year. We’ve been down before, but our kids did a great job of battling back,” said Meigs coach Brent Bissell. “We just couldn’t get that key hit at the right time — either early in the game or late in the game. And Circleville has a good program. It was a good ballgame, but just wasn’t our night today.”
With the loss, the Marauders end a solid season at 21-7, in which they also shared the Tri-Valley Conference Ohio Division championship — while winning the sectional of course.
The Tigers, which play in the difficult Mid-State League, never trailed in raising their record to 16-11.
Last season, the Marauders — as the seventh-seed in the sectional — made it all the way to the regional tournament, including another nailbiting marathon district semifinal.
Meigs clipped Sheridan 3-2 in 12 innings — and another lengthy outing started to take shape from the sixth inning on.
After Christian Mattox relieved Marauder starter Bartrum in the fifth, following Meigs’ 5-0 deficit, Mattox pitched three and two-thirds scoreless innings while striking out seven.
Whitlatch, who would have pitched in today’s (Wednesday, May 18) district championship tilt had the Marauders prevailed, relieved Mattox after one batter in the ninth — and tossed a 1-2-3 frame before stranding two Tigers in the 10th.
But with one out in the 11th, Jake Mancini singled to right before back-to-back walks to Morgan Windsor and Michael Camp.
Calbert Cooper’s fly ball then sailed into right field, but in aiming to avoid a likely collision with the centerfielder closing in fast from the right, Meigs’ Layne Acree unfortunately couldn’t secure the catch.
Brayden Kershaw, the pinch-runner for Mancini at third, scored the go-ahead run.
That set up back-to-back basehits by Brandon Burroughs and Garrett Gray, plating Windsor and Camp for an 8-5 advantage.
After that, Luke Musser relieved Whitlatch, as Hemming had a sacrifice fly to cross Cooper for an unearned run.
In the bottom half, Meigs mustered only a Tyler Williams two-out walk before the Tigers’ Nick Keaton collected his fourth strikeout to end the game.
Speaking of Keaton, he relieved Hemming in the sixth, as both Tiger hurlers allowed five hits with Keaton walking three.
But Keaton kept the Marauders off the board following the safety squeeze, stranding Bartrum at second in the sixth, Mattox at second after a single in the seventh, Musser at second in the eighth — and finally Kaileb Sheets after a single in the 10th.
The Marauders missed a great opportunity to win the game in the eighth, when Bartrum drew a one-out walk, but was caught stealing second.
After Acree’s infield hit, Musser managed a single to center, in which Acree’s pinch-runner Wesley Smith attempted to take third.
But the relay throw from Circleville centerfielder Aaron Manson was an on-target laser to the bag, tagging Smith out to end the threat.
However, perhaps it was the Tigers’ unearned run in the opening inning that ultimately loomed largest for Meigs.
That’s because Burroughs reached and took second on a one-out throwing error, as Hemming helped himself by singling in Burroughs with two outs.
The Marauders made four errors, and Hemming handcuffed them until the Maroon and Gold’s four-run outburst in the fifth.
Bartrum — who went 3-for-4 to pace the Marauders — dropped in a leadoff single to shallow center, as he went to second on an Acree walk and an infield hit on a bunt by Musser.
Bartrum scored the first run on a wild pitch, setting up Zach Helton’s two-run single that scored Acree and Musser.
With two outs, Mattox singled to left to plate Helton for the 5-4 deficit.
In the sixth, the Marauders muscled the 5-5 tie off Keaton, as Whitlatch walked and Bartrum singled — with Musser getting the bunt down for the squeeze play to score Whitlatch.
But Keaton came back for an inning-ending strikeout to leave Bartrum at second.
The Tigers, which outhit the Marauders 14-10, also played perfect defense — and did not commit an error.
“Their pitchers had good control and were hitting the spots, and we were hitting the ball right at them,” said Bissell. “All we can ask is kids to put the ball in play. It just happened to be right at them. When we had guys in scoring position, we just had to have that key hit and it just didn’t happen for us.”
Whitlatch — with two strikeouts — was the losing pitcher of record in working three innings.
Bartrum allowed five runs on six hits and four walks in the first four and one-third, striking out three.
Their battery mate, Sheets, and Alec Bissell both played their final game on Monday.
Sheets was a member of Wahama’s West Virginia Class A state championship squad last season, while Bissell was a member of back-to-back TVC-Ohio and Division II sectional title teams — along with last year’s district champion.
Coach Bissell said Monday’s defeat in another extra-inning instant classic shouldn’t spoil the Marauders’ year.
“Today doesn’t take away what we did this year to go 21-7 and have part of the TVC (Tri-Valley Conference Ohio Division) championship and the sectional championship. I was very proud of what we accomplished this year and very proud of our two seniors Kaileb Sheets and Alec Bissell,” he said. “Hopefully, the kids coming back will be ready to play again next year. It should be very promising for them. Very proud of all of them.”
Paul Boggs can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2106