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High school baseball, softball titles decided with districts on tap

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    From left, St. Francis baseball players Noah Johnson, Nate Sifuentes, Tim Organ, Braden Durham, Cam Long, and Carter Smith have keyed a Knights team that is unbeaten in the TRAC.

    The Blade/Kurt Steiss
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  • SPT-NDwhitmerSB03p-14

    Whitmer catcher Madison Munoz (9) makes it safely to third base against Notre Dame's Erin Bollin (4) during a game this year. The teams have each clinched a share of the TRAC title.

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As the baseball season moves into the district level of state tournament play this week, some area league titles have been determined.

St. Francis de Sales clinched its third consecutive Three Rivers Athletic Conference championship May 4 in a makeshift doubleheader sweep at Fremont Ross.

The Knights and visiting Ross were in the top of the eighth inning of a 2-2 tie April 18 when play was suspended.

In the bottom of the 11th inning of the resumed game, Knights senior third baseman Tim Organ, Jr. drove in the winning run with a walk-off single, and reliever Justin Schnebelen got the win.

The regularly scheduled game also went extra innings.

In the top of the eighth, Braden Durham’s RBI triple drove home the go-ahead run for winning pitcher Carter Smith, and reliever Ethan Hertzfeld pitched a scoreless bottom half to earn the save.

That lifted the Knights to 12-0 in TRAC play, and no other conference team has fewer than three losses.

“It’s a tribute to kids,” said Tim Gerken, who has coached at St. Francis for 33 years, the last 12 as head coach. “Over the long term we know, if we play good, consistent baseball that we’re going to do fairly well.

“We’re really proud of it because it’s a pretty good league. You’ve got to be ready, game in and game out. We were 13-1 last year, and still clean this year, so that’s pretty good.”

St. Francis enters a Division I district semifinal at 4 p.m. Wednesday at Mercy Field against TRAC foe Clay at 16-8 overall. If the Knights win, they would advance to a district final at 5 p.m. Friday at Mercy Field against the winner of St. John’s Jesuit and Southview of the Northern Lakes League.

The Knights’ remaining conference games are Sunday against Central Catholic at Mercy Field, and Monday against Findlay.

“Consistency has been the key,” Gerken said of the latest TRAC title. “We’ve been consistent on the mound and consistent in our approach. Timmy Organ and [pitcher-shortstop] Nate Sifuentes have been very good, and all of our top players have played well. They’ve taken the lead of our senior class.”

Before their title three-peat, the Knights advanced to a D-I regional final in 2013 (29-3 record) and 2015 without winning the TRAC title.

Anthony Wayne, ranked No. 8 in the final D-I state coaches poll, has clinched at least a share of the NLL crown, and did it in style Friday with Brock Nartker pitching a no-hitter in a 1-0 win at Perrysburg.

The Generals of 18th-year coach Mark Nell are 20-4 overall and 10-2 in the NLL play entering a district semifinal at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday against league foe Springfield at Carter Park in Bowling Green.

AW has NLL games remaining at Springfield on Thursday and at Napoleon on May 23 in its bid to claim the outright NLL championship.

Perennial power Bryan secured the latest of its 30 Northwest Ohio Athletic League championships early in the season.

Tenth-year coach Jeff Inselmann’s Golden Bears clinched a share of the title April 26 with a 10-2 win at Wauseon, and made it outright April 30 with a 13-6 victory at Liberty Center.

But the win that proved to be pivotal came April 20, when Bryan blanked defending league champion and preseason favorite Archbold, 2-0, at home.

It was the only league loss for the Blue Streaks (22-4, 6-1), who are ranked No. 4 in the final Division III poll.

The Golden Bears (18-4, 7-0), ranked No. 9 in Division II, play a district semifinal at 2 p.m. Thursday against top-seeded Wapakoneta at Patrick Henry.

SOFTBALL: With state tournament play into the district stage this week, some area league titles already have been settled while others will go down to the wire.

Notre Dame has an opportunity to tie Whitmer for the TRAC title. It would be the first for each team. The Eagles must defeat perennial TRAC powerhouse Clay on Saturday to earn the co-championship.

Notre Dame and Whitmer split their conference matchups.

Notre Dame (12-1 in the TRAC), ranked No. 6 in the latest D-I state coaches poll, lost 3-1 at Whitmer (13-1) on May 2, then topped the Panthers 7-5 in a back-and-forth battle on the Eagles’ home field three days later.

Whitmer has clinched at least a share of the TRAC crown, snapping the string of five consecutive titles by Clay. Whitmer’s championship under second-year coach Duane Lanham is the school’s first in the sport.

Notre Dame coach Norm Kujawa’s Eagles has seeking their first league title since 2011 when they won the City League.


Perrysburg, ranked No. 3 in D-I, clinched the outright Northern Lakes League championship Friday with a 6-4 win at 10th-ranked Springfield.

The Yellow Jackets (25-2, 13-0) of coach Ryan DeMars defended their title behind the pitching of senior ace Bri Pratt, who singled in the top of the seventh before Brooke Miller followed with a two-run home run for a 6-2 Perrysburg lead.

Springfield answered with a two-out, two-run homer by Erica Case off Pratt, who then struck out the Blue Devils’ Jo Rueling to close the win and the title.

Wauseon also ended Archbold’s run of 12 straight NWOAL softball titles either won or shared.

The Indians (14-2, 7-0) of second-year coach Jen Croninger clinched the outright championship April 26 with a 2-1 win against  Bryan, and for good measure topped Archbold 3-0 on April 30.

It was Wauseon’s first NWOAL title since sharing it with the Blue Streaks in 2009.

“It's difficult to put into words at his point the jubilance and pride that winning the NWOAL title means to our program,” Croninger said. “Archbold has been the ‘trophy’ team that, in softball, everyone in our league tries to rise their game to. Our league title has years and years of work put into it by the girls on this team. The girls set the league title as one of their top goals, having come so close last year. It was almost a thorn in our sides that we needed to conquer.”

Contact Steve Junga at: sjunga@theblade.com419-724-6461, or on Twitter @JungaBlade.

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