After three innings, the Cardington Pirates hadn’t yet had a baserunner in their Division IV district semifinal match-up Monday at Millersport.
By the end of the game, they’d had 15 and scored eight runs in picking up an 8-0 win that sent them to their first district final contest since 2016. While the Pirates couldn’t do anything the first time through the order against Laker pitcher Michael Levacy, things were different after that.
“I told them all week the second time through was important,” said Cardington coach Ryan Goetzman. “In the fourth inning, we got Joe (Denney) and A.J. (Hall) on base. I told them we had to be selfless.”
After Denney opened the fourth by drawing a walk and Hall followed with a hit to put runners on first and second, that selflessness was shown when Dillon Minturn laid down a bunt. The move paid off when Millersport’s attempt to throw him out went into right field. Not only did Minturn advance to second and Hall to third, but Denney scored to put Cardington on the board.
“Coach said we have to do what we have to do to win it,” said Minturn. “I think everyone was selfless and did what they had to do to win it.”
Wyatt Wade would follow with a sacrifice fly to give the Pirates a 2-0 lead. It would stay that way until the sixth, when Minturn was hit by a pitch, took second on a Laker error during a pick-off attempt, moved to third on a wild pitch and scored on a Merek McClure grounder.
Cardington would then blow open the game with a five-run seventh, with all that offense coming with two outs. Journey Williamson drew a walk, as did Denney. A Hall single loaded the bases for Minturn, who promptly emptied them with a double. He would steal third and then come home when the throw to that base led to another Millersport error.
Wade would single and Nate Hickman was hit by a pitch to put two on for McClure, who followed with a run-scoring single to give the Pirates their eighth run.
Not that they needed that much. Minturn supplemented his three-RBI, two-run day by pitching a complete game shutout in which he only gave up three singles and a walk, while striking out two.
“He’s been our guy since day one,” said Goetzman of Minturn. “I can’t say enough about him, his grittiness and will to win. I can’t say enough about the kid as a person or player.”
The only inning in which Minturn had any real trouble was the very first one, as a walk and error put runners on second and third with two outs. However, he was able to induce a ground ball to get out of the inning.
“I was a little anxious,” he said. “Their crowd was getting intense and into it. I had to keep throwing strikes.”
Minturn finished with a double for Cardington, while McClure added two hits. The team also drew eight walks and a pair of hit batters to go with a total of five hits.
The win advanced the Pirates to a Wednesday game against top-seeded Newark Catholic at Mount Vernon Nazarene University — an opponent that Goetzman feels will provide a tough test.
“We had three goals: to win 20 games, to win the conference and to win a district championship,” he said. “Unfortunately, we fell short on two of them, but we can still win a district championship. We’re going to need our best game. We had to play well to get there and we did, but they might be the best team in Ohio. We have to play error-free and smart and we have to be sharper on the base paths.”
Rob Hamilton can be reached at 419-946-3010, ext. 1807. Connect with him on Twitter at @SportsMCS