OTTAWA – There are hundreds of decisions, some small and others more important, a high school baseball coach has to make during the course of a game.
In the top of the sixth inning of Friday’s Class 3A regional semifinal, Ottawa skipper Brent Moore had to make a pretty big choice after Morris loaded the bases after two were out with senior starter Jace Addis on the mound facing the top of the order for the fourth go-round and nursing a one-run lead.
“The first thing I said to Jace when I got to the mound was, ‘You’ve got this, and you’re finishing this.’ ” Moore said. “It was a thought to make a change, but a couple of reasons I left him in were there were two outs, he had gotten us to where we were and I really wanted him to finish what he started.
“The trip out there was to more or less calm him down, give him a chance to catch his breath and get refocused. All the infield gave him a pat on the back and said, ‘You’ve got this.’ And I said, ‘You’ve got this,’ and that was that.”
A passed ball allowed Morris to tie the game, but Addis retired that batter and then the side in order in the seventh. In the home half of the frame, a flyball-turned-error put Ty Trovero on second to lead off the inning. Jon Zytnowski followed by putting down a perfect sacrifice bunt toward the first-base side.
The throw to first was dropped, and pinch runner Javarius Whitifeld raced home with the winning run to give the No. 4-seeded Pirates a thrilling 3-2 win over No. 5 Morris.
The two teams had split a pair of contests earlier this season.
Ottawa (13-6-1) advances to Monday’s championship game against No. 1 seed and host Washington.
“Ty playing the game the right way and Jon getting the bunt down when asked, the little things, led to the winning run.”— Ottawa baseball coach Brent Moore
“We talk throughout the course of the season about doing the little things,” Moore said. “Ty hits that lazy flyball to center in the seventh, but he busted out of the box and gets to second base when it drops. That’s the stuff we preach about. And credit to Ty to not assume anything on that play.
“Ty playing the game the right way and Jon getting the bunt down when asked, the little things, led to the winning run.”
The Pirates took a 1-0 lead in the third against Morris starter and losing pitcher Cody Bledsoe (6-plus IP, 2 H, 3 R, 0 ER, 2 BB 6 K) when Evan Elova was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded. Morris (10-8) quickly tied things in the fourth when Nick Gomoll singled, went to third on a throwing error and scored on a groundout by Colin Cummings.
“I give all the credit in the world to Cody Bledsoe today,” Morris coach Todd Kein said. “He hasn’t started a game all year and has thrown only four innings all season after getting banged up during football. But we knew we were going to need him down the road. He was our No. 2 as a sophomore and, unfortunately, more than likely would have had a really good junior year if we’d had a season last year. He battled the entire game, located his pitches well, got outs when he needed to. All you can ask from your starting pitcher is to put you in a position to win, and he certainly did that.
“We had a couple of defensive miscues, but if we’d scored more runs we would have been able to play over them. You need to hit the ball better than we did today if you want to win the big ballgames. We had our chances but just couldn’t seem to get the big hit in those situations.”
Ottawa grabbed a 2-1 lead in the fifth when a sacrifice fly by Evola scored Zytnowski, who had reached on an error and moved to third after a single by Sholders and walk by Addis. But Morris again knotted the contest in the sixth on the aforementioned passed ball with the bases loaded.
Addis (7 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 6 K) worked out of a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the first inning to keep the visitors from jumping on top early.
“Now we go to Washington to play for the regional championship, 7 p.m. start on Monday. And we’ll have Jake Serby going for us, and he’s been pretty good all season,” Moore said. “We’ll see what we can do.”