Coldwater came within three outs of gaining an impressive opening-round tournament win over Delphos Jefferson. And guess what got in the way?
Coldwater – Coldwater coach Brian Harlament had the game face on…the official mask of propriety and gamesmanship.
But inside he had to be boiling after the Cavaliers’ opening-round Division III tourney game with Delphos Jefferson was called Thursday after just four innings and 82 minutes of play…and with Coldwater holding a commanding 11-0 lead!
The two teams will come back to Coldwater on Friday afternoon to resume play, sure enough. But in the event that Delphos does not shear that 11-run deficit to under ten with their final three at bats the outcome will stand as a run-rule 11-0 win for the Cavaliers.
It got that way in predictable fashion for the almost-now 22-3 Cavaliers. Thunder and lighting of the figurative sense took over in the first inning as first baseman Malave Bettinger followed a first inning base hit by Kyle McKibben and Aaron Harlamert reaching base on an error with a booming, majestic home run to dead center field that cleared the 380 mark and ricocheted off the batter’s eye background. Stunning to watch, it set a downward course for Delphos (9-16) and an offensive feeding frenzy for Coldwater.
The top-seeded Cavaliers would come back in the second to score four more times on four hits, a hit batsman, and an error…and three times in the third in almost like fashion before the skies opened up with torrential rain after four innings had been completed. Just three outs short of a run-rule victory, both teams settled in for an hour and 18 minute rain delay before umpires and coaches decided on a suspended outcome. The two teams will continue at 4:30 on Friday.
“I told the guys coming in that today was do, or die,” said Harlamert. “I’ve had some games over the years where we’ve lost 2-1 in the opening round. Today we came out focused, played our best, and put up four in the first inning, and they (Delphos) have to think, “Oh gosh”, and that’s was the mentality of our players.”
Winning has always been a priority at Coldwater as evidenced by the six state title banners that adorn the center field fence of their iconic facility, the sixth of which belongs to Harlamert and their 2014 Division III win over Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy.
Now, ranked second behind only Berlin Hiland in the most recent state coaches’ poll, Harlamert sees some similarity and opportunity towards adding another banner to the Cavalier baseball shrine on the center field fence.
“We’d like to,” he admits. “That 2014 team had a bunch of seniors that had that kind of toughness. Now we have a bunch of players that were sophomores then and went through that experience and have that same mentality of toughness now. It’s like…we’re going to beat you our way. I think our pitching is very similar to that team. We don’t have any real hard throwers but our guys will throw strikes. We play good defense and our offense, obviously, can put up runs. It’s just a matter of our being consistent in the manner necessary to make a deep run and be back in Columbus on June 4.”
As usual, their ranking, their legacy, and their reputation for competitiveness makes Harlamert’s Cavaliers a marked spot on the bracket.
“That’s fine,” he assures. “Our record is very good, but our district does not stand out as one that’s going to blow you away. But if we come and just do what we do we’ll be playing for a while yet. Now, you never know because you can run into a pitcher that gets hot as we did last year. But if we can keep these guys focused and just play well we’ll be there on June 4th.”
As for now, Thursday rain delay pretty much summed up the story of what’s been a frustrating baseball season for area teams, highlighted by the fact of the favored few that for reason of weather simply cannot sustain even the best of days, offensively, defensive, and by making the most of effective starting pitching, as with the case of Coldwater’s Kyle McKibben on Thursday.
McKibben pitched four innings, allowed just one hit, walked four, and didn’t strike out a hitter. Not his best effort, but Malave Bettinger, Kraig Schoenherr, and company saw to it that his best wasn’t necessary.
Such it was, and such it is as Harlamert and company look forward to next week’s second round game with an opponent yet to be determined, thanks to Mother Nature.
Such as it is…for area baseball in 2016.