10 Years Ago Today: Champions
A lot has changed in the last 10 years.
We’ve seen the rise and fall of MySpace (and rise of many other social media sites, but hopefully you just remembered you hadn’t updated your Top 8 friends in about 10 years and you need to get on that), the invention of smart phones, YouTube, 3D printing, Apple Watches… yeah, a lot has changed.
Today, as local teams Minster and Russia take the field at Huntington Park in the State Semi-Final games, my mind drifts back to June 2, 2007, as a crazy group of boys from Fort Loramie took down perennial power Newark Catholic.
Maybe juggernaut would be a better term to describe the Irish, having WON (not just made) the Division IV State Championship in 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2006. Since then Newark Catholic has won an additional three state titles and made two other finals.
I’d been thinking about what we could do to remember the 10-year anniversary of Loramie’s first baseball state title. I think it’s only fitting to try to paint a picture of the final inning that day at Cooper Stadium.
The game was as exciting as a 0-0 game could possibly be. As the visitors on the scoreboard, the anxiety continued to build for us as the innings stretched on. It was hard to say who had the momentum through the first five innings, with the teams mustering just two hits apiece to that point. We had threatened in the top of the sixth, but Newark Catholic’s defense came through as it had done so many times before.
In the bottom of the 6th it happened.
Anytime you have a scoreless game, any sort of momentum is huge. And when the Irish had a two-out baserunner reach on an error, an audible murmur of excitement ran through the Newark Catholic crowd as the speedster took his lead off first. That murmur wasn’t heard long, as the Fort Loramie faithful rose the decibel level of the Coop when junior Derek Coverstone threw that runner out at second with a perfect throw to end the inning.
As it so often happens in baseball, the defensive player who made the great inning-ending play comes to the plate to lead off the next inning. Coverstone started the seventh with a two-strike single to left, and that was the only routine play of the inning.
Pinch-bunter Nate Ruhenkamp then somehow laid down a perfect bunt between two charging Irish defenders. When the third baseman made a bad throw to second, Loramie was set up with two runners on and nobody out. (Editor’s note: Ruhenkamp pulled his hammy straight off the bone on the play. To this day people still think he broke his hip. Or got hit by a sniper.)
After nine-batter Mitch Ahlers came through with a sacrifice bunt to move the runners to second and third, Ryan Boerger was walked to load the bases for none other than Jared Hoying.
As someone with a front-row seat to this at-bat, I can tell you that there was no one more confident he would bring the go-ahead run home than Jared. Even when he fell down in the count, as soon as that curveball floated in and hit him I knew we would win. As the home plate umpire called Jared back into the box for leaning in to the pitch I was excited. I’d rather him hit a two-run double or something. And then he got drilled in the back to put us ahead anyway.
Maybe the second craziest play of the inning came when I hit a slash bunt (fake the bunt, pull back, take a swing) at the first baseman. Newark Catholic threw home to get the lead runner, but the catcher pulled his foot. In the ensuing chaos/argument, an Irish fan threw a clapper onto the field and got ejected (the rumor always was that it was a grandma, and I want to choose to believe that). We were up 2-0, and with the way Jordan Goldschmidt was throwing, that seemed like 10 run lead.
A strikeout was the second out of the frame, and then came the nail in the coffin. Goldy hit a bloop single that never left the infield, falling over the head of the first baseman and in front of the second baseman, and scoring Boerger and Hoying to put the Redskins up 4-0. So what if I got caught off third base trying to score from first on an infield single! (To my dying day I will claim that I just wanted the top of the inning to end so we could play defense and win the thing).
With a 4-0 lead and Jordan pitching, our confidence was high. When the leadoff batter of the inning flew out to Ahlers in center field, the Loramie crowd started to roar. The next batter reached base on an error and began trash-talking Andy Long at first base (an incredibly ballsy move down four runs). The next moment happened so quickly we never had time to be nervous. The following batter hit a soft liner to me on the first pitch he saw, and the ballsy baserunner was easily doubled off at first.
Anyone who has played for Bill Sturwold since he became a head coach knows that you practice turning double plays all the time. For us in particular, he would always end defense practice by painting the situation as a State Championship game. We ended up turning key double plays in the 7th inning of the Regional Final against Triad as well as the State Semi-Final against Fremont St. Joseph’s. It seemed fitting that we would win Loramie’s first baseball championship this way.
The crowd roared. The team dogpiled. The moment we had been working towards for the majority of our lives culminated in the best possible way for a high school baseball team: a championship.