(DHI Media/ Jim Bowers)
(DHI Media/ Jim Bowers)

AKRON - Van Wert made some early noise against Dayton Chaminade Julienne in their Division II state semi-final contest.

After the Eagles escaped that early jam the game was in the hand of their senior starting pitcher Nick Wissman. Wissman controlled Cougar hitters over the final six innings and when Chaminade Julienne was able to break a 1-1 in the fourth it led to a 7-1 win for the Eagles at Canal Park in downtown Akron.

The win sends Chaminade Julienne (26-2) to their third straight Division II state championship game Sunday afternoon at 4 p.m. against Gilmour Academy (25-6). Van Wert saw its remarkable season end at 27-3.

Van Wert touched up Wissman for a first inning run as Jake Lautenheiser reached on an infield single and stole second base before Hayden Maples reached an error and Nathan Temple dropped a bloop single into right field to load the bases. A sacrifice fly to center field by Lawson Blackmore allowed Lautzenheiser to score a run before Wissman escaped further trouble with a strikeout.

After the first inning, Wissman didn’t allow another Cougar base runner as he finished the game retiring 20 straight Van Wert batters. He only threw a reported 58 pitches over the final six innings and 78 for the game, 62 for strikes. He finished with nine strikeouts and allowed just two hits.

“Give them (Chaminade Julienne) a lot of credit. They are the defending state champions for a reason, they took our best shot,” Van Wert coach Charlie Witten said, “He’s a darn good pitcher. Give Nick a lot of credit for what he did to our lineup, because our lineup has been pretty good all year.”

Chaminade Julienne coach Mike Barhorst agreed with that assesment.

“You could see he picked up a good three-four MPH after the first inning,” coach Barhorst said. “He had a slow start, he didn’t have his normal velocity. I think he got a little mad when they scored that run and had three guys on. That doesn’t usually happen a lot to Nick. They said he threw 58 pitches the last six innings, so he was pretty dominant.”

After giving up a run in the top of the first inning, the Eagles got that right back in the bottom of the first inning.

AJ Solomon and Andrew Simones worked walks to start the game off Cougar starter Lawson Blackmore. A sacrifice bunt moved the two runners up a base before a sacrifice fly to right field allowed Solomon to score.

Much like Wissman, Blackmore settled in after the first inning retiring six straight batters before Solomon walked with one down in the third inning. Solomon was caught stealing second base before a strikeout ended the inning.

In the fourth inning, Chaminade Julienne would take advantage of two Van Wert errors to score a pair of runs to take the lead for good.

Wissman struck out to start the Eagle fourth, but reached base on a wild pitch before Sebastian Gongora singled to left putting runners at first and second. Jack Huffman attempted to advance the runners with a bunt, but Blackmore got to his bunt attempt quickly and threw Wissman out at third. Ghiman McKinney followed with a slow roller towards third base.

The ball was fielded cleanly, but a low to first base skipped past the Van Wert first baseman and down the right field line allowing a run to score. A second run scored when the throw from the outfield went all the to take backstop with Hieatt advancing to third base. A short fly ball to center and a popup to short ended the inning keeping the Eagle lead at 3-1.

“We gave up too many free bases,” Witten said. “Walks. Errors. Those are things that you can’t do in a baseball game against a team as good as they are. I give my guys credit they battled and battled like they had all year.”

Chaminade Julienne broke the game open in the fifth as they scored three times to make it a 6-1 game.

Andrew Tillman singled to start the inning to before stealing second base. After an out, Simones was hit by a pitch and Wissman walked to load the bases. A wild pitch allowed Tillman to score before Gongora followed with a two run single to center to make it a 6-1 game and end Blackemore’s day on the mound.

“He’s (Blackmore) is our ace and the kids look up to him,” Witten said.”We expect a good outing from him every time he’s out there, but today they did a good job of getting after him. He gave us his all all year long and we look forward to him doing some great things against Miami (Ohio) University next year.”

The Eagles scored a seventh run in the bottom of the sixth on a Simones RBI triple before Wissman returned to the mound for the seventh inning and used three strikeouts to end the game.

While the loss ended a remarkable season for the Cougars, that included a Western Buckeye League co-championship along with sectional, district and their first egional championship, coach Witten was proud of his players for their solid play.

“This was a tremendous group for what they have accomplished this season,” Witten said. “This a great group of kids and you can’t ask for any more than what they have given us this year. I just love them to depth. I’ll take my kids any day, I love them.”

Gongora had two hits and drove in three runs for the Eagles.

Van Wert 100 000 0 - 1 2 3

Chaminade Julienne 100 231 x - 7 5 1

Wissman (11-0). LP-Blackmore.