Raiders will play for state championship
COLUMBUS–Cool, calm and collected is the name of the game for South Range freshman pitcher Jake Gehring who was given the start for the Raiders’ first state appearance.
“I don’t really get that nervous,” Gehring said. “I try to stay cool. I love my guys and I trust my guys behind me.”
A six hit shutout led the Raiders to a 7-0 win over Cincinnati Madeira on Friday in the Div. III state semifinals at Huntington Park.
South Range (17-15) will now face sixth state ranked Coldwater for the Div. III state crown at 1 p.m. on Saturday.
The biggest play of them all might’ve come from Gehring’s bat that hit a three run double with two outs to crack open a 3-0 lead for the Raiders in the top of the sixth inning.
“For a freshman to show that type of composure is incredible,” South Range head coach Jim Hanek said. “This is the performance that has impressed me the most from Jake. He had to show that composure tonight.”
A key to Gehring’s composure might be the joking manner he shares with senior first baseman Mike Cunningham.
“I try to settle him down the best I can,” Cunningham said. “I don’t really tell anyone what I say but it works. I guess it has become kind of a superstition.”
“Mike and I have a lot of inside jokes,” Gehring said. “It keeps it fun and that’s what I want to do out there on the mound.”
Cunningham had an RBI triple in the sixth inning to round out the Raiders scoring in the inning at five. Josh Stear also had an RBI single.
Gehring pitched through a tough situation in the bottom of the sixth inning when Madeira loaded the bases with no outs but Brandon Youngs would save the day snagging a ball out of the air for an unassisted double play at second base.
“I still can’t believe I caught that,” Youngs said. “After that I had no idea to do because the excitement took over.”
“I thought that ball was in left field,” Hanek said. “That’s just a testament of these guys being able to bear down. There were many times this game could’ve unraveled but the guys kept it under control.”
With a runner on third and a full count in the fifth inning Gehring got Madeira lead off hitter Pat Thatcher to ground out to third base.
Prior to the sixth inning rally the only South Range hit was a single from Brandon Youngs.
“I can’t say enough about the job of this team,” Hanek said. “I love my players and they deserve this. From the first to the end they battled.”
South Range added two more runs in the top of the seventh inning when Brycen James had an RBI single and Youngs crossed the plate on a throwing error.
This win might mean the most for South Range’s three seniors whose final game will be for the state crown (Youngs, James, Cunningham).
“This is surreal,” Cunningham said. “Words can’t even explain this.”
¯ Other area teams to compete in the state finals are East Liverpool (1969 runner-up), West Branch (1973 runner-up) and Springfield (2009, 2011, 2013 runner-up).
¯ South Range has embraced the underdog role with only a 17-15 record.
“This just proves when you get to tournament time anything can happen,” Youngs said. “I like being the Cinderella team here.”
¯ Coldwater (26-6) is no stranger to the state finals as they will be making their 10th appearance in the final in school history.
¯ Madeira ends the season 21-7
SR: 0-0-0-0-0-5-2 7-9-2
M: 0-0-0-0-0-0-0 0-6-1
SR Jake Gehring, wp (7IP, 6K, 1BB) and Jared Barjeski
M: Tyler Sullivan, lp (5 2/3IP, 2K, 3BB, 5ER), Sam Wirsing (1 1/3IP, 2K, 1BB) and Tyler Richomd