BOWLING GREEN — The top hitter in the Northern Lakes League couldn’t reach base. His counterpart, a pitcher as good as anyone in the conference, couldn’t keep the bases empty.
Everything else about a Division I sectional final at Carter Park made sense. This was a typical Anthony Wayne and Perrysburg standoff, sprinkled with gamesmanship, heady base running, and key defensive plays.
Oh, and a home plate kept mostly clean of footprints.
Anthony Wayne accounted for one more run than its NLL adversary, eliminating the state’s 10th-ranked team in a 3-2 nine-inning thriller before a sweatshirt-covered crowd of a couple hundred.
Because of a bracketing quirk, this nearly annual postseason clash occurred out of the gate rather than at district, which Perrysburg coach Dave Hall lamented as “sad.”
“But you had to beat them somewhere,” Hall said.
His team nearly did, leading the entire way before surrendering the tying run in the top of the seventh on a grounder that nearly resulted in a game-ending double play.
Anthony Wayne scratched out the deciding run two innings later when Peyton Brown, running on a 2-2 count, scored from second on Austin Kottenbrock’s single to the right side of the infield.
Brown, who entered the day batting an NLL-best .414, got out in his first four at-bats, unable to take advantage of control issues by Perrysburg ace Mark Delas.
“I’d been struggling, and I knew I had to get on,” said Brown, who laid down a textbook, slow-rolling bunt along the third-base line with one out.
Anthony Wayne coach Mark Nell said it was Brown’s decision to bunt.
“Can’t get any better than that,” Nell said.
Alex Murphy pitched the ninth, getting Delas to tap softly to the pitcher’s mound to end a bases-loaded threat. Two batters earlier, third baseman Alex Meyers made a diving catch down the line to prevent one and maybe two runs.
Delas, who entered with a 5-0 record and a 0.45 ERA, did not have his best stuff. Though he allowed just two runs — matching his season total — he created jams with eight walks. He fell behind 18 of the final 20 hitters he faced and walked No. 9 batter Josh Schwerer three times.
Anthony Wayne admittedly tried to get under Delas’ skin, routinely stepping out of the batter’s box to disrupt his rhythm. Nell set the tone early, ordering play stopped on the game’s first at-bat because Delas was wearing black sleeves under his jersey with white patches.
The color contrast is considered distracting for a batter, and the umpire commanded Delas to role up his sleeves.
“It’s a rule,” Nell said. “I hate to do it. People yell at me, but whatever. It’s a rule. Kind of like the speed limit.”
Irked over his opponent’s tricks, Delas retaliated at the plate in the fifth inning. He delayed the start of his at-bat against AW reliever Mason Zimmerman by chatting with the umpire.
Delas stepped out of the box twice in the at-bat, and Zimmerman stepped off the rubber once.
Nell heaped the ultimate praise on Delas, who smacked a double off the center field wall in the first for the game’s first run.
“Mark Delas is a great competitor,” he said. “I love playing against him, but I’m kind of glad to not play against him anymore.”
Delas surrendered the tying run with two down in the sixth when Kottenbrock outran a double-play bid that would’ve given Perrysburg the win. Delas walked the next batter and was pulled.
Why didn’t Hall make the move to his bullpen sooner?
For one, his eventual reliever AJ Stockwell, was under an innings count having thrown 10 of them in Monday’s 1-0 win against Napoleon.
Hall gave another reason.
“I’ve always been told you ride the horse you took to the party,” he said.