COLDWATER — During the Minster baseball team’s back-to-back state title runs and 15 straight postseason victories the past three seasons, they’ve consistently emerged from tough postseason situations on some of the state’s biggest stages.
A seven-run first-inning deficit against a pitcher going the way Crestview’s Damian Helm was mowing down hitters proved to be the one road stop to the Wildcats’ potential third straight run at a championship.
Crestview scored seven runs in the top of the first inning after two men were out and Helm held Minster’s usually-powerful line-up to just three hits in a jarring 10-2 win over top-ranked Minster on Tuesday evening in Coldwater.
“I didn’t in my heart think Helm could do that to our bats and he did,” Minster head coach Mike Wiss said. “Helm threw a great game and Crestview did everything they needed to do to win and obviously the first inning.”
Crestview advances to play top-ranked St. Henry, which blanked Ottoville 6-0 in the second game at Coldwater on Wednesday night.
It ends a storybook run by Minster’s senior class. And although it was tough to consider after an eight-run loss to end their time at Minster, Wiss underscored just what his seniors had accomplished. Minster ended its season at 21-3, a campaign that included a co-MAC championship following after back-to-back Division IV state titles in 2011 and 2012.
“You can’t take away what Devon Poeppelman, Andrew Knapke, Jay Eilerman and Adam Niemeyer have done over the last three years,” Wiss said. “They are 96-18 in high school baseball as four-year players. It’s a disappointment it had to go this way. Crestview played very well to beat us....We’re disappointed, but those seniors have two state championship rings and a lot of things to be happy about from Minster baseball.”
Crestview won this rematch of a district game with a top of the first inning that saw the Knights bat around while scoring seven runs.
Minster starting pitcher Devon Poeppelman was a pitch away from getting out of a bases-loaded jam almost unscathed in the first inning after a hit, hit batter and walk loaded the bases, but a wild pitch brought in the first run of the game and the bottom of the Crestview line-up just kept tacking on run after run. Nathan Owens singled in two runs to make it 3-0. Eighth-hole hitter Jordan Roop one-hopped the fence for a double to make it 4-0.
Ninth-place hitter Brock Ralston doubled in two more runs to make it 6-0. An error allowed another run in.
When the nightmarish inning had ended, Minster had surrendered seven runs and the Wildcats were forced to bring in Adam Niemeyer to stop the bleeding.
“After the first inning we talked more about getting the chin off our chest, about our demeanor on the field, our body language,” Wiss said.
But the damage was already too costly.
Poeppelman came into the game sporting a 1.92 earned run average, the second starter for the Wildcats. Wiss had hoped to get a strong start from his senior and have Niemeyer, who had an 0.21 ERA heading into the game, as a bullpen option later in the game.
“We thought we might see Poeppelman,” Crestview head coach Jim Wharton said. “We threw some hard and some soft to prepare for both Niemeyer and Poeppelman.”
Niemeyer pitched the final six and one-third innings, giving up three runs. Getting runs off Minster’s ace was important to Wharton and his team moving forward.
“That’s the part that is important for our team,” Wharton said. “That gives us confidence to be able to scratch out runs against him.”
Helm moved to 8-0 on the season with an ERA under 0.50.
“He came in last year and took the loss against Minster and only gave up three hits, so we knew he had to come in and have a superb effort and we got that from him,” Crestview head coach Jim Wharton said.
Poeppelman doubled in Minster’s first run in the bottom of the first to score Niemeyer to cut the lead to 7-1.
But Minster wouldn’t collect another hit until the seventh inning, when Poeppelman doubled and Ethan Wolf doubled him in.