OTTAWA — It took a little longer than it wanted, but the Napoleon American Legion Post #300 baseball team is the District I champion once again.
After watching a two-run lead evaporate in the top of the seventh inning, the River Bandits loaded the bases to start the bottom of the inning and Tylor Yahraus delivered the knock-out blow with an RBI single for a 3-2 win over Findlay Post #3 in the title game Tuesday night at Ottawa’s Memorial Field.
“I was just looking for a pitch I could drive, even a flyball that could get the run in,” said Yahraus, a Montpelier graduate.
This is the 14th district championship for Napoleon and its first since 2017. The River Bandits will open the American Legion state tournament Tuesday in Lancaster.
“We have had some bumps in the road,” Yahraus said. “Coach D (Chad Donsbach) is always telling us that if we are in the game and ready to play, we can be really good.”
“It’s huge,” Donsbach said of winning the district title (his second as a coach). “The success of our season is determined by the outcome of this tournament and the tournaments after this.”
Napoleon took the early lead when Antwerp graduate Austin Lichty, who led off with a walk and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt, scored on an error in the first inning.
For a long time that looked like it was going to be enough for the River Bandits to win the title, as Hicksville’s Jackson Bergman continued to pitch out of trouble.
Bergman struck out the final two batters of the first inning to get out of an early jam and also worked out of trouble after allowing the leadoff batter on in the third and fifth innings.
In the sixth, Findlay again put the leadoff batter on with a walk, which signaled the end of the night for Bergman. Fairview’s Nathaniel Adkins came in and gave up a single to put runners on first and second.
Adkins coaxed a pop up to himself, and a 5-3 double play by Montpelier alum Blake Altaffer ended the threat.
The River Bandits added an insurance run in the bottom of the sixth, with Tinora’s Nolan Schafer driving in Altaffer with a two-out single. However, the runner at first was thrown out at third to end the inning.
Findlay took advantage of two Napoleon errors in the seventh inning to score a pair of runs and tie the game.
Tanner Rubinstein (Napoleon) led off the seventh with a single and took second when the right fielder bobbled the ball. After a pair of walks, Yahraus’ walk-off hit set off a celebration by the Napoleon bench.
“Tanner taking that extra base was huge,” Donsbach said. “That took the bunt out of play and allowed us three cracks at driving in a run from second base.”
Adkins picked up the win, pitching the final two innings and allowing two runs (none earned) on three hits and two strikeouts. Bergman went five shutout innings, allowing two hits and two walks, while striking out 10.
Napoleon had four hits in the game, with Schafer getting the other two hits not in the seventh inning.
Findlay’s Ethan Canterbury took the loss, going six-plus innings and allowing three runs (two earned) on three hits and six walks. He struck out seven. Ashton Bour pitched to one batter.
Napoleon is now 27-9 on the season.