Parker Conrad takes a swing Saturday in the Cougars win over Elida. (DHI Media/Joe Dray)
Parker Conrad takes a swing Saturday in the Cougars win over Elida. (DHI Media/Joe Dray)

LIMA — It was a wild and crazy district tournament Acme game between Van Wert and Elida Saturday afternoon — a controversial, unpredictable, error-and-mistake-filled scorekeeper’s nightmare eventually won by the Cougars 10-8 despite trailing 7-0 at one point.

Elida returns to the field Sunday at 2:00 for an elimination game against St. Mary’s. The winner of that game will come back at 5:00 on Monday to face Van Wert. The Cougars would have to lose twice on Monday to give up a ticket to the state tournament in Coldwater next weekend.

St. Mary’s eliminated Delphos St. John’s with a 1-0 win in Saturday’s first game.

Elida batted around in the first and again in the second inning, leading 7-0 after two, courtesy of three Cougar errors, four walks, and some robust hitting. However, the Bulldogs stranded five runners in those two frames, which didn’t seem important at the time.

Van Wert starter Parker Conrad was the victim of the Elida onslaught and was charged with all seven of those runs, three earned. He traded places with third baseman Josh Halker with nobody out in the second, and that move was to pay off in a big way for the Cougars.

Meanwhile, Elida’s hard-throwing righthander, Luke Burger, was overpowering the Cougars. However, with a seemingly safe lead, the ‘Dawgs opted to move Burger to centerfield to start the third inning, and Van Wert immediately started its comeback with two runs in that frame.

After the first three Cougars reached base in the fourth (walk, single, dropped fly ball), Burger returned to the hill with the lead at 7-3. Two more Cougs crossed the plate on a Bulldog error, and it was 7-5, Elida.

Things only got worse for the ‘Dawgs in the fifth. Errors and wild pitches piled up, and Van Wert got consecutive two-run doubles from catcher Kaden Bates and DH Jacob Place to take a 10-7 lead. Meanwhile, Halker was cruising on the mound, blanking Elida on only one hit during the third, fourth, fifth, and sixth innings.

Things were looking good for the Cougs — until the last of the seventh. Two singles — one a rip down the leftfield line by catcher Mike Niebel, the other an opposite-field blooper down the rightfield line by leftfielder Camden Howard — followed by a wild pitch, closed the gap to 10-8 with Howard on second. Halker had the game-ending out in his glove on a foul pop off the bat of third baseman Jaden Hullinger, but he dropped it.

Hullinger, like Howard, then blooped an opposite-field single down the rightfield line, putting runners on the corners. Burger walked to load the sacks, leaving the game in the hands of a match-up between Halker and second baseman Alec Ewing. Ewing lofted a high popup into foul territory behind third base where three Cougars converged, and Conrad managed a shoestring catch to end the suspense.

Halker’s stellar relief pitching was the biggest single factor in the win. He worked six innings, yielding only one run, unearned, on four hits, striking out six, walking two, throwing 94 pitches, including 61 strikes.

Van Wert had nine hits, led by Bates (2 for 4, including a double and a triple, two runs, two RBI), Place (2 for 5, including a double, two RBI), and centerfielder Keaton Brown (2 for 4, two runs scored).

Elida also had nine hits, led by Burger (3 for 4, including a double, two runs, two RBI) and Hullinger (2 for 4, one run scored).

It was certainly a game full of what-ifs. The teams combined for nine errors — five by Van Wert, four by Elida — and 22 runners left on the bases — 11 by each team.

Van Wert (ab-r-h-rbi)

Keaton Brown cf 4-2-2-0, TJ Reynolds ss 4-2-1-0, Parker Conrad p/3b 4-2-1-1, Turner Witten 1b 4-1-0-0, Kaden Bates c 4-2-2-2, Jacob Place dh/2b 5-0-2-2, Levi Eddins rf 4-0-1-0, Josh Halker 3b/p 2-0-0-0, Levi Newell 2b 0-0-0-0, Hunter Bolenbaugh dh 2-1-0-0, Ries Wise lf 0-0-0-0. Totals 33-10-9-5.

Elida (ab-r-h-rbi)

Noah Bowman ss 4-2-0-0, Jaden Hullinger 3b 4-1-2-0, Luke Burger p/cf/p/cf 4-2-3-2, Alex Ewing 2b 5-2-1-1, Hayes Burton 1b/p/1b 0-0-0-0, Matt Adcock rf/1b/rf 3-0-0-1, Dylan Marston dh 4-0-1-1, Taylor Nunez cf/lf/cf 0-0-0-0, Mike Niebel c 3-1-1-1, JT Lesher lf/rf/lf 2-0-0-0, Camden Howard lf 2-0-1-0. Brice Engle p 0-0-0-0. Totals 31-8-9-6.

Errors: Newell 2, Bates, Lesher, Nunez, Ewing Conrad, Bowman, Halker. PB: Bates. SB: Brown 3, Ewing, Bolenbaugh. Sac Bunts: Hullinger, Burton. Sac Fly: Conrad. HBP: Halker (by Burton), Reynolds (by Burger). Doubles: Bates, Place, Burger. Triple: Bates. LOB: VW 11, Elida 11.

Van Wert 002 350 0 - 10 9 5

Elida 340 000 1 - 8 9 4

Pitching (ip-h-r-er-bb-so)

Conrad 1.0+-5-7-3-4-1.

Halker (W) 6-4-1-0-2-6.

Burger (L) 4-5-5-1-4-9.

Burton 1.0+-3-5-2-2-1

Engle 2-1-0-0-0-0.

Wild Pitches: Burger 4, Halker.

Pitches/Strikes: Conrad 45/23, Halker 94/61, Burger 102/56, Burton 41/20, Engle 23/13.