COLUMBUS - Through three and a half innings of Friday's Division IV state semifinal, the Springfield Tigers season looked very much in doubt.
The Tigers trailed the Defiance Tinora Rams 6-2 and were facing a pitcher in Clay Pittman who had been dominant all season.
"It wasn't looking good at that point," Springfield coach Matt Weymer said. "Our guys could have easily hung their head and called it a season."
But the Tigers refused to let defeat enter their minds, and what followed was nothing less than a complete offensive onslaught. Springfield scored in every inning the rest of the game - batting around twice - and pulled away with a 13-7 victory over the 16th-ranked Rams.
The Tigers improve to 21-7 and advance to the Division IV state championship game at noon Sunday against seventh-ranked and six-time state champion Newark Catholic at Huntington Park.
"We didn't give up," senior shortstop Cody Pitzo said. "That was the difference. We kept fighting all the way. It feels awesome to try for another state championship."
Down 6-2 entering the bottom of the fourth, Springfield erupted for five runs to seize the lead for good. Eoghan Bees led off with a double, advanced to third on a Ryan Kohler single and scored on a throwing error to get the ball rolling.
After an RBI double by Cody Pitzo and an RBI single by Hunter Snyder brought the Tigers within one, Weymer deployed an aggressive strategy to tie the game. Dalton Donachie was on first with Snyder at third with one out. Donachie took off before Tinora reliever Derek Drewes released the ball, deliberately trying to get in a rundown. The ploy worked as Snyder scored while the Rams were occupied with Donachie.
"I don't always want to be that aggressive," Weymer said. "But we pushed a lot of buttons tonight and the calls happened to work."
Donachie wound up safe on the play and scored the go-ahead run later in the inning on a passed ball.
The Tigers added two more in the fifth to make it 9-6, but Tinora had one last rally in them in the sixth. The Rams closed the gap to 9-7 and had two runners on with number-five hitter Brevin Renollet at the plate, but Tiger reliever James Hillyer induced a tailor-made double-play ball back to the mound to end the inning. Hillyer relieved starter Dalton Donachie after four innings and also worked out of a bases-loaded jam in the fifth.
"James is somebody who came out late for our team," Weymer said. "But he has come so far in a quick period of time. Tonight really showed that."
The Tigers removed all doubt with a four run sixth to make it 13-7. Cody Pitzo capped things with an RBI single. The senior finished with three, hits, a double, and three RBIs, while Ryan Kohler went 4-for-5 with a triple and two RBIs.
"We couldn't have hit the ball better if you put it on a tee for us," Weymer said. "It was absolutely unbelievable. I don't think I've ever been more proud of a group of guys or loved a group of guys more than this one."
NOTE: No. 7 Newark Catholic (23-10) defeated No. 17 Convoy Crestview (19-8) in the other semifinal, 9-1.
Newark Catholic has had a dominating tournament run, outscoring its opponents 108-7. The Green Wave has won six state championships and has been in the state semifinals nine times in the last twelve years.
"They are a terrific program that is here every year it seems like," Weymer said. They will be the best team we have played all year, but that's how it's supposed to be in a state championship."