" Even though we came up short, we made an appearance here. I think it will be motivation for next year to try to do the same thing. The future’s bright. " Zac Feasby Head baseball coach
BY BRUCE HEFFLINGER

Sports Writer

AKRON - When you get to the state tournament, any mistake can be magnified. That proved to be the case for Antwerp in the Division IV semifinal loss to Toronto on Friday night at Canal Park.

Errors, pick offs, wild pitches and misplayed balls by the Archers helped the Red Knights to their 20th consecutive win while ending the best season in Antwerp baseball history.

“This is your dream growing up,” explained Cole Seslar, one of four seniors on the Archers. “You always want to play at  state, this where you want to be. The fact that we got here is an amazing feeling.”

But the state’s eighth-ranked team by Prep Baseball Report had problems in the field, on the base paths and on the mound against a Toronto team that improved to 26-5 on the season going into the state championship game against HIllsdale.

After the Archers put a runner on second with one away in the first, a pickoff at second base  and a ground out ended the threat.

Toronto then went in front 1-0 on an RBI triple by Zac Berger in the top of the second before , Antwerp threatened to tie the game with a runner on second and one down in the bottom of the frame. However, another pickoff at second base stopped that opportunity.

“We had guys in scoring position but those pickoffs hurt us a  lot,” admitted Keaton Altimus, another senior on Antwerp. “Then they capitalized on our mistakes.”

A pair of Antwerp errors led to two Toronto runs in the third and a 3-0 lead before the Red Knights made it 4-0 in the fourth featuring singles by Berger and AJ Clegg and two wild pitches.

“When you’re playing a team as good as Toronto and you have errors and other defensive mistakes, you’re going to get beat every time,” Antwerp coach Zac Feasby said. “We also had base running mistakes. Simple things. Those things happened early and we fell behind and couldn’t catch back up.”

The Archers biggest threat came in the third when Blake Schuette  led off with a single, was sacrificed to second by Jason Geyer and, after a strikeout, went to third on an Austin Lichty line drive single up the middle. But a ground out back to the mound kept the Archers at bay.

“We were hitting the ball hard, we just couldn’t execute with guys in scoring position,” Altimus noted.

After Dylan Hines ripped a single to left with two outs in the fourth, the Archers failed to get another hit off Clegg, a junior right-hander  who improved to 7-0 on the season for the fifth-ranked team in the state.

“He was very consistent, he kept us off balance mixing up different pitchers much like our pitchers have done against different teams,” Feasby said. “It just seemed like everytime we had a hard hit it went right to one of their guys.”

Clegg finished with a four-hitter, striking out seven while walking four as Antwerp closed out the season with a 19-6 record, the best mark ever at the school.

“I don’t feel the team was nervous, we were still confident, we just made some early mistakes,” Feasby summarized. “After that we couldn’t put hits together like with Kalida (in the regional finals) where we were able to get a run here and there.”

Toronto put the game away in the seventh with four runs, highlighted by a bases-loaded triple from Nate Kaaffa, a senior headed to play at Ohio State.

“This experience was one of a kind,” noted Altimus “ Running out on the field and seeing our crowd compared to their crowd ...  At the beginning of the year if you told me we’d be in the state semifinals I’d take it every day.”

Feasby is hoping it is just a start for the program, which had never won a district title prior to this season.

“This has been awesome for the community,” Feasby concluded. “Even though we came up short, we made an appearance here. I think it will be motivation for next year to try to do the same thing. The future’s bright.”

Linescore

Toronto       012  100 4 -  8  10  0

Antwerp      000 000 0  -  0    4  2

Records: Toronto 26-5, Antwerp 19-6

Winning Pitcher: AJ Clegg (7 innings, 0 runs, 4 hits, 7 strikeouts, 4 walks).

Losing Pitcher: Austin Lichty (6 innings, 4 runs, 3 earned, 6 hits, 5 strikeouts, 2 walks). Other: Luke Krouse.

Leading Hitters: (Toronto) - Nick Chetock single;  Nate Karaffa 2 doubles, triple, 3 RBIs, 2 runs; Nick Sninchak single; Zac Berger single, triple; AJ Clegg 2 singles; Brendan Matyas single. (Antwerp) - Cole Seslar single, Austin Lichty single; Dylan Hines single; Blake Schuette single.