Van Wert’s Michael Etter earns District berth

LIMA — Van Wert senior Michael Etter surprised fourth-seeded Carter Welch of Ottawa-Glandorf in the go-to district match at the boys tennis sectional at UNOH on Thursday afternoon.

Etter will face top-seeded Justin Haggard, of Bluffton, in Saturday’s sectional semifinals, but regardless of the outcome, Etter will play next week at the BGSU district tournament. Saturday’s matches will determine district seeding.

Etter dispatched of Mason King (St. Marys) 6-1, 6-1 to open play on Thursday, then knocked out St. Marys’ Howie Spencer, 6-4, 6-0. He then faced Welch, who had dropped only one point in his first two matches, combined. Etter won the first set 6-4 before going up two breaks in the second set and winning 6-2 to advance.

Welch was the only one of the top four seeds to fail to secure a district berth. Haggard won his two matches easily, while Shawnee’s Jackson Schaaf cruised through three matches and Ben Brinkman of LCC won at love in his second round match before posting a 6-2, 6-0 win in the quarterfinals.

Van Wert junior southpaw Kannen Wannemacher wound up one match short of extending his season. After playing second singles all year, Wannemacher showed well with an easy win over Kenton’s Taj Chahal. He then beat Andrew Vogel of St. Marys (6-2, 6-4) in a hotly-contested match. Wannemacher ran up against Haggard in the quarterfinals and lost 6-1, 6-0.

Van Wert’s Michael Hellman was bounced in the opening round by Schaaf.

In the doubles draw, Van Wert’s Storm Pierce and Nathan Ruger won their first match, but fell in the quarterfinals to second-seeded Zach balbaugh and Drew Kuhlman, of Ottawa-Glandorf. The Cougars’ first doubles team of Zane Fast and Kaden Thomas were eliminated one round earlier by Marcel Lansing and CJ Vanderhorst of St. Marys.

Etter will play in the district tournament beginning on Wednesday morning at Bowling Green State University.

Cougars advance with 10-0 shutout of Indians

VAN WERT — In a Division II sectional semifinal at Van Wert's Russell Fisher Field on Wedneasday, the host Cougars were in command from start to finish in a 10-0 blanking of Wauseon.

The Cougars will advance to Friday's sectional title game.

Cougar junior Lawson Blackmore limited the Indians to three hits across six innings of work. He walked two and struck out eight. On the other side, Wauseon starter Carter Stump was hammered for eight hits and nine runs (eight earned) in his five innings. The Cougars pounded out 11 hits in total, including four for extra bases.

"It seems like, when we aren't going good we watch a lot of good pitches go by," Van Wert head coach Charlie Witten said. "We didn't do that today; the pitches that were there, we hammered them."

The Cougars struck in the opening inning thanks to a leadoff walk to Jonathan Lee, a single and a sacrifice fly off the bat of Blackmore. In the Cougar second, Jake Lautzenheiser singled, then Darius Eddins ripped a triple to deep right center for a 2-0 scoreboard. Three batters later, Lee executed a suicide squeeze that brought Eddins home, and an error on the play allowed James Acquaviva to come all the way around from first for a 4-0 lead.

"We were putting the barrel of the bat on the ball, but we executed, too," Witten said. "The squeeze in the second inning was a huge play. Every situation we had, I think we executed it perfectly.

It stayed that way until the fifth, when the Cougars erased any doubts with a 5-run uprising. A 1-out walk to Lee and an infield hit by TJ Reynolds ignited the rally. Hayden Maples brought in a run with a single, then Blackmore smoked a double to deep left field, scoring another. After Nathan Temple walked, Eddins connected for his second extra-base hit of the day and brought home two more runs.

The Cougars had a chance to end the game in five, but left the 10th run on base.

In the sixth, it took a 2-out rally against reliever Levi Krasula to get it done. Reynolds poked a single to left, then Maples lined a double up the gap. Blackmore then ripped a walk-off base hit into left center to score Reynolds and advance the Cougars to Friday.

Eddins finished 2-for-3 with a double, triple and three RBIs. Blackmore added three RBIs of his own.

"[Darius] has been sick; he had pneumonia, but he had a decent practice yesterday and was able to get after it today," Witten said. "He's a guy that just gets in there and does the job."

Van Wert’s Megan Braun makes giant leap in long jump

VAN WERT – There’s something special about an 18-foot long jumper in high school girls track and field. Van Wert senior Megan Braun has broken through that barrier this spring, and is now doing it consistently.

Her best jump so far is 18’4 in the May 1 Ottoville quad. Braun (pronounced “brown”) first broke through the 18-foot barrier on April 24 at the Van Wert County Meet with her 18’3, which broke the 18’1 school record set in 2011 by Sydney Riethman. Braun has already bested 18 feet in four recent meets, so this is no fluke.

Here’s some perspective on what an 18-foot jump means. Of the 16 qualifiers for last year’s Division II state meet, only six had gone over 18 feet in regionals. At the state meet itself only four jumped that far (18-9.50 won the state championship). Many colleges, large and small, are eager to sign 18-foot jumpers.

Braun is also an excellent sprinter. On the wall of the main hallway at Van Wert High School is the track and field record board, and Braun’s name is already on there twice as part of the 2015 4x100 and 4x400 relay teams. Her long jump record will soon be posted, so she will leave Van Wert with at least three records, which would put her second only to Amanda Clay (VWHS Class of 2014) who has four.

Braun’s coaches are impressed with all of that speed and athletic ability, but they’re even more impressed with her character and her competitiveness.

“Megan is in the best shape I have ever seen over her four years of high school track and field,” said long jump coach Ben Laudick. “It helps that she’s one of the most competitive people I have ever coached.”

“Her commitment to being the best she can be and her work ethic,” head track coach Mark Collins lists as the keys to Braun’s success. “Megan has been a pleasure to coach, and as good of an athlete as she is, she is an even better person.”

“Meg was a hard worker,” said volleyball coach Jeff Marbaugh. “She played every point as hard as she could, she didn’t take plays off. Meg was a joy to coach, great kid.”

Braun started playing volleyball at the Y in third grade and played continuously through her senior season. She made WBL honorable mention in 2017. She started basketball in sixth grade and played up through her sophomore year. Track, her favorite, started in the first grade with school meets.

“Track’s always been a sport where I’ve succeeded,” said Braun. “I wasn’t always the best athlete, but I wanted to be, and that was the goal, so as I’ve grown up I’ve worked towards it. As I’ve gotten older I’ve continued to get better.”

Athletes are limited to four events in any one meet, but at various times Braun has run the 100, 200, 400, 4x100 relay, 4x200 relay, and 4x400 relay — in addition to the long jump.

Braun was the WBL long jump champion in 2016 and 2017. She was also the WBL champion in the 200 in 2016 and has been part of WBL champion relay teams in 2015 (4x100, 4x200) and 2017 (4x200, 4x400).

She was the district long jump champ in 2017. She has advanced to the regional in multiple events — some combination of 100, 200, 4x100, 4x200, 4x400, and long jump — all three years.

“My favorite is long jump,” said Braun. “I actually didn’t start doing long jump until I was a sophomore. It ended up working for me, and I’ve stuck with it, practiced, and put a lot of work into it in the off seasons. Last winter I went to the University of Findlay two times a week and worked on technique with their jump coach.”

“Megan possesses great speed and athleticism,” said Laudick. “She gains a great amount of momentum coming down the runway, and when you combine that with her athletic ability, it has allowed her to become a good jumper. Two things that have helped Megan progress to the next level this year are her overall strength and conditioning, plus her landing. When you add that all together, you get a really good long jumper.”

“I would honestly say the 400 is my favorite race,” Braun said when asked which race she likes best. “I’ve never run that in tournament or WBL’s, but I think it’s my best. It’s very hard. It’s like a love/hate relationship with the 400. I’ve run a 60 flat at the New Haven Relays and am hoping to get into the 59’s. With a 60, I’m going into tournament pretty strong. Looking at times, I think that’s what the coaches want me in.”

Three of Braun’s events in the WBL meet and the tournament are likely to be long jump, 400, and 4x400. Her other event is yet to be determined, but will be either the 100, 200, 4x100, or 4x200.

Braun appears to be peaking at just the right time. At the Ottoville quad meet on May 1, she had three PR’s — long jump (18’4), 100 meters (12.56), and 200 meters (26.21).

“I am really just hoping to make it to state this year, whether it be in long jump or 4x4 or something, because every year I’ve made it to regional finals, been close, and then I never made it to state,” she said.

“College track is in the picture now,” said Braun. “I’m talking to a few schools and seeing what scholarships I can get, because as I’ve been progressing this season it’s become higher up on my list of things I want to do.”

Braun would like to major in business management because of the variety of jobs that it opens up to give her a wide background of experiences. She would eventually like to be a youth director in a church.

Megan is the daughter of Matt and Tina Braun. Her brother Jake is a senior at Ohio State, and brother Josh is a sophomore at Toledo.

Van Wert tops Paulding 5-2

PAULDING — Van Wert and Paulding prepared for upcoming tournament games in a well-played Monday night regular season matchup that ended with the Cougars on top 5-2. Van Wert is now 12-5. Paulding is 8-11.

The 5th-seeded Cougars will host 10th-seeded Wauseon Wednesday at 5:00 in Division II. The Panthers, seeded 10th, entertain Bluffton, seeded 11th, at 5:00 Wednesday in Division III.

Though hampered by some nagging injuries before and during this game, the Cougars have the depth and talent to handle that.

“We’re still kinda in that phase where it’s hard for me to figure out a top nine; we’ve got enough guys in there that are doing things well,” said Van Wert coach Charlie Witten. “We just got beat by St. Henry and Defiance, two losses in a row, so it’s kinda good to bounce back and get this win before we head off to tournament Wednesday.”

Both pitchers – Van Wert freshman Owen Treece and Paulding sophomore Kolson Egnor – were solid, but one big Cougar inning made the difference.

The Panthers took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first on a leadoff opposite-field double to deep right by first baseman Marcus Miller, sacrifice bunt by DH Hunter Kauser, and ground-ball out by shortstop Jaret Miller. However, the Cougar bats promptly heated up in the top of the second.

First baseman Nathan Temple led off by bouncing a single through the left side, and leftfielder James Acquaviva worked a long at-bat into a walk. Third baseman Holden Willingham sacrificed the runners to second and third, then rightfielder Keaton Brown grounded out to score Temple and move Acquaviva to third.

Second baseman Jake Lautzenheiser was hit by a pitch to put runners on the corners. Lautzenheiser then got caught in a pickle between first and second, but managed to escape to second while Acquaviva scored. Centerfielder Jonathon Lee then ripped a single to left center scoring Lautzenheiser, and when the throw home was cut off and thrown wildly to second, Lee moved up to third. Shortstop TJ Reynolds then was plunked by an Egnor pitch, after which catcher Hayden Maples ripped a single through the left side to drive in Lee with the inning’s fourth run.

Paulding got a run back right away in the bottom of the second on a walk and stolen base by catcher Evan Edwards, followed by a single to right by left-handed centerfielder Westen Phlipot – 4-2, Cougs, after two.

Van Wert upped the lead to 5-2 in the top of the third on a leadoff double to deep center by Temple, a sacrifice bunt by Acquaviva, and an RBI ground-out by Willingham.

At that point, both offenses pretty much ground to a halt as Treece and Egnor took command. The only serious threat came in the top of the seventh when Maples beat out a single to deep short and DH Lawson Blackmore lined one off the leftfield fence for a double; however, Maples was nailed at the plate by a wide margin.

Treece was again superb. He threw only 74 pitches, of which 51 were strikes, while yielding two runs, both earned, on only four hits. He struck out five and walked one. Egnor, too, was efficient, except for the disastrous second inning whieh required a whopping 37 pitches.

There were some fine defensive plays at several positions by both teams. Van Wert had no errors and Paulding only one.

“We had a really good defensive effort today,” said Witten. “For the most past it’s been pretty good this year. Certainly we’ve had our lapses. We had one bad inning against St. Henry that cost us some runs, but overall it’s been pretty good.

Temple (2 for 3, including a double, two runs) and Maples (2 for 4, one RBI) led the Van Wert offense. Jaret Miller went 2 for 3 and had an RBI for Paulding.

Lady Cougars sweep St. Henry 5-0, 16-14

VAN WERT – Van Wert came into Saturday’s doubleheader with nine wins, St. Henry with only one, so it looked like it would be a pair of mismatches. They weren’t. The first game was a well-played affair, dominated by Cougar pitcher Laine Spoor in a 5-0 Van Wert win. The second game was, to say the least, not a well-played affair, the Cougs barely holding on for a 16-14 win. Van Wert is now 11-6, St. Henry 1-14.

In the first game, the Redskins mounted minor threats in the first, fourth, and seventh innings, but Spoor’s pitching and some good defense behind her kept St. Henry in check. Spoor also made the defensive play of the game in the fourth inning. With one out and runners on first and second, St. Henry second baseman Robyn Lefeld blooped a 20-footer along the third baseline where Spoor made a diving shoestring catch, then doubled the runner off of second to end the inning.

Meanwhile, the Cougars pounded out 11 hits off of the Redskins’ McKenna Buschur, but solid St. Henry defense prevented a blowout. Van Wert left ten runners on base.

The Cougar offense was led by catcher Katie Dickson (2 for 3, including a triple, two RBI), Spoor (2 for 4, one run), and first baseman Olivia Kline (2 for 3, one run).

In sharp contrast to the first game, the second was an ugly one. Although there was plenty of action – 30 runs and 32 hits – there were plenty of negatives as well – 15 unearned runs, 14 errors, 12 wild pitches, 22 runners left on base, and several baserunning mistakes – to name a few.

Van Wert had leads of 6-0 after one, 12-1 after two, and 15-2 after three. St. Henry committed six errors in the second inning alone. Starting in the top of the fourth, however, the momentum took a 180-degree swing. The Redskins played errorless ball from then on, pitcher Hannah Oakley was suddenly able to quiet the Cougar offense, and the St. Henry bats, aided by some shaky Van Wert defense, came alive.

Down 16-12 going into the seventh, four hits and two Van Wert errors closed the gap to 16-14 and had runners at first and third before reliever Lauren Moore managed to quell the comeback.

Outfielder Laine Spoor (4 for 5, including a double, three runs, one RBI), first baseman Olivia Kline (4 for 5, one run, one RBI) and DP/shortstop Alexis Metz (3 for 5, one run, two RBI) led Van Wert’s offense. The Cougs also got two hits apiece from Moore, starting pitcher Katie Coplin, centerfielder Adrianna Grothause, and second baseman Drew Kennedy.

Redskins pull away from Van Wert late

VAN WERT — The state-ranked St. Henry Redskins traveled to Van Wert on Friday night to take on the Cougars in non-league baseball action. The Midwest Athletic Conference co-champions came alive in the sixth inning to beat the Cougars 8-1.

The Redskins struck first in the top of the first inning. Parker Link scored on a single by Marc Siefring and gave St. Henry an early advantage.

Van Wert bounced back in the bottom of the third when Parker Conrad scored on a hit to the right-center field gap by TJ Reynolds to tie the game at one a piece. Reynolds was caught stealing second and Hayden Maples struck out to end the Cougar rally.

Holden Willingham was solid through five innings of work. He walked just two batters and allowed one run while striking out four. He was replaced to start the sixth inning and that is where things began to fall apart for Van Wert.

Reliever Owen Treece walked three batters and gave up five hits in the sixth inning alone as St. Henry went on a tear. The No. 6-ranked Redskins racked up 7-runs and opened up a huge lead in route to their 8-1 victory.

St. Henry pitcher Marc Siefring had no trouble slamming the door on the Cougars for the last two innings. After giving up a hit to open the bottom of the sixth inning, he forced a double play and a groundout to end the threat. Siefring also struck out the side in the seventh to secure the win.

Van Wert head coach Charlie Witten noticed some inconsistencies in his team’s performance.

“It was the little things. A leadoff walk in the sixth inning, a bloop single, a bunt that we should have gotten a guy out on, and once you are in bases loaded with no outs you are in trouble. One mistake led to another and nobody stepped up to make a play.”

The Cougars face another tough opponent in Defiance on Saturday, and Witten said his team needs to be ready.

“We need to shake off tonight’s loss and forget about it. We will re-focus for tomorrow and get ready to play some baseball. Defiance is another really good opponent and we need to play seven solid innings of baseball.”

Van Wert falls to 11-4 (5-2 WBL) while St. Henry improves to 15-4 (8-1 MAC).

Cougars explode for 8-run 4th to knock off Bath

VAN WERT — For three innings of Van Wert’s Western Buckeye League game against Bath on Tuesday night, the Cougars had no answer for the Wildcats and right hander Chad Frey. The Cougars then made some adjustments and scored eight runs in what would be the decisive fourth inning to post a 10-4 win at Smiley Park.

Van Wert (11-3, 5-2 WBL) put each of its first six hitters on base in the fourth against Frey, who had yielded only one hit through the first three frames. Hayden Maples led off the inning with a base hitto right, then Lawson Blackmore found a seam up the middle to put two runners aboard. After a walk loaded the bases, Nathan Temple moved each runner up one base with his RBI single, and Darius Eddins followed suit with another base hit. James Acquaviva then had the biggest hit of the inning, a bullet past the third baseman and into left field for a 2-run single, giving the Cougars a 4-2 lead.

After a bunt attempt resulted in a force out, the Cougars picked right back up with the hot hitting. Jake Lautzenheiser drove home a run with a single to left, and TJ Reynolds brought home two runs with a long triple to deep left center field and a 7-2 lead. Reynolds then scampered home on a sacrifice fly from Maples to cap the scoring in the inning.

On the mound, Maples was tagged for two runs (one earned) in the opening inning, but settled down for a couple of innings thereafter. Battling through some injuries, Maples allowed a single run in the Wildcat fifth, but pitched well enough to earn the win. He went five innings, allowing three runs (two earned) on seven hits and two walks. He punched out five. Blackmore worked the final two innings in relief.

The Cougars picked up two runs in the fifth against Bath southpaw Blake Goedde. Back-to-back falirs found the grass for singles, with Goedde balking the first of those, Temple, into scoring position. Temple came home on an Eddins base hit. Eddins eventually came around on Lautzenheiser’s soft line drive to ceter for the Cougars’ 10th run of the day.

Temple, Maples, Lautzenheiser, Eddins and Acquaviva each had two hits, and four Cougars drove in two runs apiece.

Bath is now 7-12 overall and 3-5 in league play. The Cougars sit tied with Defiance in second place in the WBL, two games behind Wapakoneta.

Parkway crushes Lady Cougars 13-0

VAN WERT – The Parkway softball team has been playing well all season. They’re apparently even better when it’s warm outside. Playing in sunny, low-70’s weather Monday, the Panthers were almost flawless while crushing Van Wert 13-0 in a five-inning run-rule affair. Parkway (13-2) is ranked 1st (tied with Jeromesville Hillsdale) in the latest Division IV state-wide coaches poll. Van Wert is now 9-3.

“We played really well today,” said Parkway coach Mark Esselstein. “Offense, defense, pitching – it all came together today. When we play like that it’s gonna take a heckuva team to beat us. Hopefully, we just keep building on that.”

The game was in doubt only briefly. As usual, Parkway’s bats were hot from the beginning, scoring two in the top of the first on singles by pitcher Macy Henkle, third baseman Bailey Strickler, and first baseman Haley Hawk.

Van Wert threatened in the bottom half of the first when third baseman Laine Spoor led off by ripping a double to the gap in right center, and, after an out, pitcher Lauren Moore blooped an opposite-field single to right to put runners on the corners. However, Macy Henkle struck out the next two batters, and the Cougars never threatened again.

Parkway pounded out 13 hits and were aided by five Van Wert errors. Meanwhile, Henkle was superb and was helped out by several outstanding defensive plays. The most sensational play came from leftfielder Courtney Lies in the fourth inning when she sprinted into foul territory to catch a fly ball almost simultaneously with her crash into the sideline fence. She was not hurt on the play.

After the Cougars touched Henkle for two hits in the first inning, she cruised through the remaining four, giving up only one more hit. She ended up with two walks and six strikeouts, throwing 81 pitches, 50 of which were strikes.

“Macy did a great job, really got ahead on the count, especially early in the game,” said Esselstein. “She was quick today; warm weather helps.”

The Parkway offense was led by Strickler (4 for 4, two doubles, two runs, two RBI), Hawk (2 for 3, two runs, three RBI), second baseman Bailey Bates (2 for 4, one run, two RBI), and Henkle (2 for 3, one RBI).