NEW MIDDLETOWN - Tournament success is often determined by which teams are peaking at the right time. After some offensive struggles in the regular season's final month, the Springfield Tigers found their stride in the postseason, averaging nine runs a game in the tournament on their way to a berth in the Division IV state semifinals at 7 p.m. today at Huntington Park in Columbus.
Opposing the Tigers will be a Defiance Tinora squad that also had to regroup for a strong stretch run.
Tinora (19-7) will be making its third straight appearance in the state semifinals after losing in this round to Minster and Canton Central Catholic the last two years. Both of those teams went on to win the state championship.
The Rams are back in Columbus with a re-tooled roster after losing eight players from last year's team. Outfielder Dylan Rumbaugh is Tinora's only senior.
After beginning the season 4-5, the Rams reeled off a 15-2 stretch to win their fifth straight Green Meadows Conference title. They had a 36-game conference winning streak snapped on the last day of the season.
The man in charge is Brent Renollet, who is in his 15th season. The Rams had just one conference title in 45 years before Renollet showed up in 1998.
"I was looking at Tinora's schedule," Springfield coach Matt Weymer said. "And it looks a lot like ours. They seem to play a nice mix of Division III and IV schools. I also know they have one really good pitcher we need to be ready for."
That pitcher is junior Clay Pittman, who will most likely face the Tigers tonight. Pittman, who comes in with a record of 6-0 and an ERA of 1.36, pitched a one-hitter in the district semifinals versus Edon and is also the team's leading hitter with a .500 batting average. He hit a grand slam in the regional final.
As a whole, the Rams lineup is dangerous from top-to-bottom, with six players batting over .390. Number-two hitter Reid Renollet and cleanup hitter Derek Drewes have both been red-hot in the tournament. Drewes enters today with 10 postseason RBIs.
Springfield will try and attack that lineup with sophomore Dalton Donachie, who is 7-1 with a 1.83 ERA. The right-hander brings plenty of big-game experience to the table, earning wins in both the district final and regional semifinal.
"Dalton is someone who has really come through in big games for us this year," Weymer said. "Whoever we face, we know he will give us a chance."
Weymer is not concerned about his team's lack of familiarity with Tinora. Throughout the week, he has echoed the same theme that has been repeated throughout the tournament.
"I keep telling our players just to focus on us," Weymer said. "We know at this stage every team is going to be tough, but as long as we execute the way we're capable of we'll have a chance to win."
Rambo is a reporter for the Lisbon Morning Journal.