(DHI Media/ Pat Agler)
(DHI Media/ Pat Agler)

VAN WERT— In baseball few things puts butts in the seats like a good pitching matchup. That makes this Saturday’s State Semi-final match up a bonafided block buster. Van Wert will put their ace, Lawson Blackmore against CJ’s Nick Wissman.

The gravity of the situation isn’t lost on Blackmore, but it isn’t scaring him either.

“There is a lot of nerves that go into it,” said the Cougars’ ace. “Obviously it’s the State Semi-final game, so a lot of nerves go into it—especially since I’ve never been in this position before. But I’m mainly excited for it. I’m ready for the atmosphere and the opportunity.”

Blackmore does have a lack of experience in this game, but CJ’s starter does not. Nick Wissman got the call last spring when the Eagles defeated Wapak in the State Finals. He threw seven innings of one run ball and nine strikeouts. Even off the mound, the right handed hurler played two state games the year before, 2017, at second base defending for his older brother Garrett, who threw a one-hitter in the State Semis.

This season, Wissman has started 10 games and the Eagles have won every one. In his 60 innings of work, he struck out 71 batters, while having a WHIP (walks and hitters per innings pitched, so essentially baserunners per inning) of 0.87. His ERA is 0.93.

The Eagles also brought back a majority of their starters from last year’s championship team, but that doesn’t scare Blackmore at all.

“I have a lot of respect for that team; they are really well put together,” said Blackmore. “I’m just going to go out there and attack them.”

The Cougars’ right-hander is no stranger to playing top competition. Blackmore has started eight games this season, in those games he has faced Defiance, St. Marys, Shawnee, Elida, Wapak, Lexington and Bowling Green. Half of those starts have ended in complete games, including his last two starts. His only loss came in his second start of the season, when the Cougars fell to Defiance.

You could argue that Blackmore has improved as the season as gone on, with his best two starts coming in his last two outings.

“I’m really confident. It’s been a good time for my athletic ability to peak, almost. Hopefully it hasn’t reached its summit yet,” said Blackmore with a chuckle. “I’ve had a great time pitching these past few games, and being able to pitch and do what God gave me.”

Blackmore has a 6-1 record. He has allowed only 11 earned runs in 51 innings, while striking out 75. He is averaging over 10 strikeouts per game. His earned run average is 1.50, while his WHIP is 0.91.

Blackmore already beat one half of last spring’s state final match up, as he and the Cougars beat Wapak in the Sectional Finals. It only makes sense to beat the other half this Saturday.

Both teams have great hitters. Both teams have great fielders. On Saturday, we will see a fantastic ball game between two of the best pitchers in the state.