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.