CIRCLEVILLE — Baseball has a very cruel way of putting you on cloud nine, and then bringing you back to earth in the blink of an eye.
Vinton County trailed entering the top of the seventh, then tied the game only to suffer a 5-4 loss at the final at-bat to Logan Elm on Saturday in a Division II sectional quarterfinal.
“This was the type of battle I wish we had all season, and we wanted this so bad for the kids,” Vinton County coach Andy Barrell said. “We outhit Logan Elm, took momentum and played a really solid game. But we had a couple mental errors midway through the game that in a small way came back to get us. This was hands down the best game we played all season, it just didn’t go our way.”
Understanding that it had to win this game to get to the next, the Vikings trotted out Zach Bartoe to the hill and he delivered.
Despite the loss, he went the distance and allowed seven hits while striking out 11 batters in the process. He additionally scored twice and had two hits.
“He’s the most humble kid you could ever come across. You’d probably have no idea he was a baseball player or athlete just the way he carries himself,” Barrell said. “We’ve trusted him for the past three years and he’ll a kid that’s tough to replace because he brings so much to the table. There’s not a better pitcher in the TVC.”
The Vikings wasted no time striking first, capitalizing on a Logan Elm throwing error that plated Bartoe and River Hayes to put them ahead 2-0 quick.
The Braves answered back in the bottom of the second with a two-out two-run single up the middle from Colton Eplin to tie the game 2-2.
The next inning, they decided to play long ball and Braylen Baker muscled a solo home run over the left field fence to give them a 3-2 advantage.
With momentum on their side, they added one more run on an RBI single from Peyton Anderson in the bottom of the fifth.
However, the Vikings still had some fight left in the them. With two runners on base, Zack Radabaugh laced an RBI single to trim the lead down to 4-3 before a base running error resulted in an out that ended the sixth.
“I wish we had that inning back,” Barrell said. “We made a couple mistakes in the field and on the bases paths, and that mental error on the bases really hurt at the time.”
It seemed like a dagger to the heart not being able to capitalize in the sixth, but the Vikings chipped away in the seventh.
After a pair of strikeouts to open the inning, the window was still open after Gabe Raschke was hit by a pitch. Then Broc Love legged out a single. Koen Travis was also hit by a pitch, and suddenly the bases were loaded.
On the very next pitch, the ball got passed the catcher and Raschke crossed the dish to tie the game 4-4 before a pop out ended a further threat.
However, the day ultimately belonged to Logan Elm after a leadoff single led to an RBI single two batters later off the bat of Brody MacDonald to put the final touches on the Vikings’ season.
“After that run had scored to tie the game, I thought we were about to win,” Barrell said. “We had Quentin (Campbell) up who had been hitting the cover off the ball, but even after the out, we still had all the confidence we were going to get three outs and come back for the ninth. But it just didn’t play out that way.
Radabaugh finished 2-for-4 with an RBI, while Hayes was 3-for-4 with a double and a run scored.
The Vikings now say goodbye to seven seniors: Bartoe, Radabaugh, Love, Travis, Dylan Harper, Quentin Campbell and Matt Sexton.
“Of those seven guys, six of them are everyday starters and Dylan ended up throwing the third most innings for us so we’re losing a lot of guys and production,” Barrell said. “But above baseball, they’re all such great kids. The amount of compliments I get from opposing coaches, umpires and everyone else about how they conduct themselves on the field is unbelievable.
“They don’t say any bad words, they hold themselves to a high character standard and that’s what I’m most proud of. This was a tough year of us and it was rough at the beginning, but these seniors held things together and continued to work through it. They were great leaders, and they’ll definitely be missed.”