NORTON — The crowd held its breath as Wadsworth cleanup hitter Matt Moore smacked a bouncing ball that seemed destined to become a single up the middle with two outs in the seventh inning. The tying run already was on first base, and star Nick Lallathin was on deck.
Brunswick shortstop Kyle Goessler got a great jump ranging left and used every muscle of his 6-foot-2 frame to dive so deep into the hole that momentum carried him to the other side of second. The senior made the stop, stretched again and tagged the bag a nanosecond ahead of sliding runner Jake Peebles.
Game over, Blue Devils win, see you Thursday.
The brilliant play from the Hillsdale basketball recruit capped a back-and-forth war Tuesday, as suddenly surging No. 4 seed Brunswick escaped the top-seeded Grizzlies 3-2 in a Barberton Division I District semifinal and advanced to play Cinderella sixth seed Firestone (22-8), which upset No. 2 Medina.
“That’s a great win for us,” Goessler said. “We knew coming into the tournament we had a chance to make a run. We’re coming together at the right time here. We got some timely hits, scored enough runs to win the game and got great pitching by Scott (Rouse) and Noah (Herron) at the end.
“I just saw it up the middle. You’ve got to give it your all, really, there. I thought I had a chance at it with a dive, I came up with it and got to second base before (Peebles).”
Goessler’s highlight made a deserved winner out of Rouse (4-3, 2.25 ERA) and allowed Herron to pick up his first career save. It also made for an ironic yet thrilling ending after both teams struggled defensively on the thick grass and hard dirt of Hal Naragon Field.
Brunswick (16-12) committed two errors to go down 2-0 in the second inning, but Rouse kept firing bullets and the Blue Devils made the most of their offensive opportunities in the fourth.
Goessler led off with a strange, sky-high bouncer for an infield single. Lallathin retired the next two batters, but Michael McFadden walked and Jacob Dye sprayed an opposite-field double to right field to make the score 2-1. Wadsworth then committed back-to-back infield errors to give Brunswick the lead.
Rouse settled in from there, using a fastball, changeup and sweeping curveball to allow only two hits and two walks over the next three innings — he finished with nine strikeouts — before giving way to Herron after 103 pitches (67 strikes).
“I just played hard,” Rouse said. “I wanted to try to give my team the best chance to win.”
The Grizzlies (18-8), who matched Brunswick with three total errors, led off the second with a Moore walk and put runners on second and third when Lallathin’s single to left scooted past a charging outfielder. Chase Diosy then brought in Moore on a single, while Lallathin scored on an infield error.
Lallathin (6-3, school-record 0.70 ERA) pitched a three-hitter, walked two, picked off two and struck out eight, and coach Greg Pickard was disappointed the offense didn’t support him more. Wadsworth had two on, no out after the second-inning error and failed to score again, left the bases loaded in the fifth and stranded two runners in the sixth.
“We had opportunities in the game with runners on and didn’t execute a few bunts,” Pickard said. “Those things we harp on from Day 1, we didn’t really do well today.”
Brunswick began the season 7-2, lost 8-of-10 and now has won 7-of-9 since 2016 No. 2 pitcher Josh Herron passed away from cancer on May 5.
No one believes that is a coincidence.
“We’ve rallied behind people and rallied behind the Herron family through everything that’s been going on,” coach Grant Relic said. “I like to think that plays a role into our guys right now, where they are inspired and playing for someone and playing with purpose.”
Brunswick 3, Wadsworth 2
Barberton Division I District Semifinal
BRUNSWICK 000 300 0 — 3 3 3
WADSWORTH 020 000 0 — 2 5 3
WP — Scott Rouse (4-3) 6 innings, 2 runs, 1 earned, 4 hits, 3 walks, 9 strikeouts. LP — Nick Lallathin (6-3) 7 innings, earned run, 2 walks, 8 strikeouts. S — Noah Herron (1) 1 inning, 0 runs, hit, 0 walks, strikeout. Brunswick (16-12) — Jacob Dye double, RBI. Wadsworth (18-8) — Lallathin 2 singles, run.