North Royalton’s Bryan Bielak eludes the tag of Southview’s Griffin McDonald for a triple in the third inning of the Cougars’ 3-1 loss in a regional final at Bowling Green on Friday. THE BLADE/ANDY MORRISON
BOWLING GREEN — Southview’s surprise run in the Ohio Division I baseball tournament came to an end Friday, one win short of a first trip for the Cougars to the state semifinals.
North Royalton touched Cougars lefty starter Tyler Stambaugh for an unearned run in the third inning, added a run in the fourth, and Bears pitcher Noah Sasse escaped jams in four straight innings to survive for a 3-1 win over Southview (18-11) in a regional final played at Bowling Green’s Steller Field.
PHOTO GALLERY: Click here to view more photos
The Bears (21-7) advance to next weekend’s D-I state tournament in Columbus.
“We had opportunities we missed on, and we gave them some runs with a couple booted balls, too,” Southview coach Ed Mouch said. “We didn’t play our best game, and in the regional [you] can’t make mistakes against a good team.
“But I’m extremely proud of our team. We’ve got nothing to hang our heads about. We’ve had a great year and a great run here.”
The Cougars, who finished tied for fourth place in the Northern Lakes League at 6-8, defeated three league champions in tournament play to get here.
On this day, however, the Cougars’ good fortune ran out. They committed four errors, including two that led to runs. An unfortunate base-running miscue prevented the Cougars, down 2-1, from taking a lead in the fifth inning.
With one out and Cougars Nate Grady and John Malak on base after infield singles, Tre Simms drove a ball to the right-field corner that the Bears’ Jack Marousek was unable to secure. As the ball bounded into foul territory, it appeared Simms would have a two-run triple.
Instead, Grady fell rounding third, returned to the bag, and Malak was caught in a rundown. Sasse then retired Nick Vlasnik to end the inning.
“I probably should’ve kept him going because the other two guys were right behind him,” Mouch said. “I’ll take the blame on that one. When he tripped, my first instinct was to put him back on third, but those other guys were right on top of him.”
Destiny also intervened in the sixth after Southview’s Griffin McDonald singled with one out, stole second, and advanced to third on Stambaugh’s groundout. On a checked swing, Jake Holloway’s short fly to left-center appeared certain to drop for a game-tying RBI single. But North Royalton center fielder Garrett Strom made a terrific diving catch for the third out.
The Cougars had chances to tie the game in the third and fourth innings.
After stranding Spencer Perry at third base to close the third, Southview had one out in the fourth when Colin Boerst doubled and Griffin McDonald singled to put runners at first and third. Stambaugh’s groundout scored Boerst to make it 2-1, but McDonald was stranded at third.
“They’re a good team,” Bears coach Brad Klingbeil said of Southview. “They hit us pretty good, and we dodged some bullets. I give credit to our defense, and to our pitching.”
North Royalton scored first in the third inning, when a two-out error by Southview proved costly. Stambaugh fielded Nate Kocan’s comebacker, but his throw was dropped by Holloway at first. The next batter, Bryan Bielak, tripled to the fence in the left-field corner for a 1-0 lead.
“They capitalized on our errors,” Stambaugh said. “We made an error [in the third] and then I made a bad pitch and they capitalized. We’ve been swinging the bats well, and we should’ve hit this pitcher. It just wasn’t there today.”
In the North Royalton fourth, Evan Willmann blooped a one-out double to right and then scored on Marousek’s sacrifice fly. The Bears added an insurance run in the seventh as Strom’s RBI double scored Reese Albright, who had reached on Boerst’s error at shortstop.