In a game full of squeeze attempts, hidden ball tricks and a handful of pitchers, it was only fitting the final out came on an attempted steal of second base.
Montpelier’s Brock O’Neal was tagged out at second base by Fairview’s Hunter Bostater to end the 5-County All-Star Game at Fairview High School on Friday. The South, consisting of players from Defiance, Henry and Paulding Counties, defeated the North team, consisting of Williams and Fulton County players, 4-2 in a nine-inning game.
O’Neal was all smiles, though, as he jogged back to the dugout amidst encouragement from his teammates.
“It’s something different,” North coach Brien Moore, who is also the Edon coach, said. “Walking into the dugout and seeing kids like Logan Boetz and Logan Rufenacht, Clayton Flegal, Braydon Cape, you’ve coached against them the last four years. It’s different. You get to know the kids, but now you get to come together. It was a great experience.”
There wasn’t much strategy involved in the game, as the players were able to pick their spots in the field and the lineup and pitchers and catchers were able to call their own games from the mound.
“It’s a lot of fun, it’s the last hurrah for these seniors,” South coach Jason Holubik said, who is also the Napoleon coach, said. “You want to make it the best experience for these kids. They pick where they bat in the lineup and where they pitch. It’s a really fantastic experience.”
The North took an early lead after Joe Shema of Wauseon scored to put his side up 1-0.
That side of the game was weird for both coaches, as typical opponents of the last four years became teammates for nine innings.
“It was nice to have Blayne Robinson (of Defiance) on our side and not have to worry about him taking a ball 400-feet,” Holubik said with a grin. “Same thing with the Henry County teams, it’s nice to joke around with them. We have great respect for our rivals in the county. They’re good kids, they have good programs.”
The game’s most light-hearted moment came in the top of the third inning when Montpelier’s Dakota Benner swung hard at a pitch. As it turned out, he swung too hard.
The bat slipped from his hands and flew over the third-base dugout — Edon’s Daryke Bass was the first out of the dugout to hand a laughing Benner a new bat.
“The boys had fun,” Moore said. “I’m glad they got to enjoy the experience.”
A sac fly and an RBI from Bostater gave the South a 2-1 led in the bottom of the fourth, as the North was stuck on one hit for the rest of the game.
After a Michael Laniczak (of Swanton) steal of home in the 8th inning to tie the game at two,-the South answered right back in the bottom half of the inning with some help from the Napoleon Wildcats.
Caleb Farr laid down a suicide squeeze to give the South a 3-2 lead and Mitchell Kruse had an RBI to put the game at its final 4-2 score. The game was the final one for the coaches to coach some of their seniors. Holubik had the opportunity to coach Farr, Kruse and Jake Smith in their final high school games.
“It’s bittersweet,” Holubik said. “We had some success this year and a lot of that is because the leadership and the culture they helped create this year. You see that in both sides, you see a lot of kids that know how to play the game the right way. You look at a lot of the programs that are here that have success and you can see how these kids left their fingerprints on that.”
In some of the players final organized baseball game of their careers, they put on a show that capped some stellar careers.
“You really got to see how smart of baseball players kids in our area are,” Moore said. “The kid from Swanton, ball four, he stole home. That’s not something you can teach. It was great watching kids play and seeing them in different situations. I wish them nothing but the best.”