TIFFIN — This baseball postseason is turning into a continuous party for Bryan, and no one is ready to pull the plug.
The Golden Bears clapped in unison, made fun gestures, and dangled silly ornaments in their dugout Thursday to conjure positive vibes in their first regional appearance in 15 years.
The real celebration began when Bailey Martin struck out Keaton Metz for the 21st and final out in a 3-1 win over Wapakoneta.
Bryan, tiptoeing through the playoffs with four wins by one or two runs, seeks a ticket to the Division II state final four today. Awaiting the happy-go-lucky Bears is 10th-ranked Sandusky Perkins. First pitch is set for 5 p.m. at Tiffin University’s Heminger Field.
Bryan is treating this late May run like any team ... any recreation softball team. To “stay in the game,” says center fielder Austin Martin, the Bears came up with fun stuff. Standing at the edge of the dugout, they might pantomime the Atlanta Braves tomahawk chop. Or maybe play rock-paper-scissors, choosing rock every time. They decided to loosen up after the team listened to a sports psychologist this offseason who preached unity.
“A bunch of good friends here,” said Martin, whose soft, one-out single to right drove in two runs and broke a tie in the top of the seventh. “We have great team chemistry.”
Deer antlers also are playing a part. Manicuring their home field on a blustery day in March, someone on the team found antlers laying on the grass behind the outfield fence. Like that, the Bears had a good luck charm to grace their dugout.
First-year coach Jeff Inselmann appreciates the quirks.
“We have great camaraderie,” he said. “They don’t want this to end.”
Starter Bailey Martin was surgical, scattering three hits and facing one batter over the minimum in the final three innings. He experienced angst once, walking the first two batters in the fourth. The Redskins (20-10) tied the game at 1-1 when left-hander Chandler Kaeck laid down a surprise bunt and caused third baseman Paris Creek to make a bad throw. Martin soon got out of a bases-loaded jam, inspiring his teammates to joyfully spill onto the field.
“He threw a whale of a game,” Inselmann said.
Bryan squandered several opportunities, leaving the bases loaded in the third after scoring one run, and again in the fifth after Derek Knisely missed a sign from Inselmann to keep running from second. The next at-bat, Jordan Bostater, who will start on the mound today, flew out to right for what should have been a sacrifice fly.
“It was frustrating for the first six innings,” Martin said.
That changed in the seventh. With runners on the corners with no outs, Martin squirted a high fastball to right off starter Chase Culver. Nate Rau scored standing up, Bostater sliding.