By ANDY WOLF
LORAIN — New Riegel coach Gregg Hughes thought his team hit the ball well in Saturday’s Division IV regional final against Dalton.
The Blue Jackets just hit it right at them.
They managed only two hits off Alex Alger who pitched the Bulldogs on to state with a 3-2 victory at Lorain’s Pipe Yard Stadium.
“It was a great ball game,” Hughes said. “We hit the ball well, hit it right to them. They made the plays. We made the plays. I guess that’s the way it’s supposed to be.
“It’s a shame somebody has to lose but that’s the way baseball is. I’m very proud of all of them.”
Seeking its first state appearance since 2000, New Riegel fell a game short and finished at 21-6 overall.
Dalton advanced to meet Russia in the state semifinals 1 p.m. Friday at Huntington Park in Columbus.
The Blue Jackets had no problem putting the ball in play off Alger.
He scattered four strikeouts to two walks, working efficiently and pitching to contact.
Alger got nine ground ball outs to six fly outs.
Yet so was New Riegel starter Alec Zoeller.
He gave up one hit the first time through the order and allowed the three runs on five hits and one walk with one strikeout in five innings.
Both starters threw three scoreless innings to start the game before New Riegel struck first in the fourth inning.
Alex Theis led off the top half with a single up the middle to break up Alger’s no-hitter.
A passed ball moved him to second and Michael Kirian reached on a hit by pitch.
After Brandon Arbogast drew a four-pitch walk, Shane Halcomb brought home Theis on an RBI ground out with Kirian retired by shortstop Andrew Kandel’s throw to Cole Geiser at third.
However, the makings of a big inning evaporated as Ben Dryfuse grounded into a 6-4-3 double play to end the inning.
“We’re all juniors in our infield but they’ve matured a lot throughout this year,” Dalton coach Scott Huth said. “That was huge to get out of that inning with only one run coming in. That probably shifted some momentum our way a little bit and helped us out.”
The Bulldogs wasted no time taking control in the bottom half by hitting Zoeller hard.
Alger laced a leadoff double and came around to score two pitches later on Clark’s RBI single that tied the game at 1-1.
Geiser then reached on a single and Eric Summers squeezed bunted Clark home from third base to give Dalton its first lead.
No. 8 hitter Colby Hilty kept the rally going with a two-out RBI single that plated Geiser from second base.
“He kind of lost it there a little bit,” Hughes said of Zoeller. “I thought he did a nice job. He’s done a nice job the whole year. That’s all I can ask.
The Blue Jackets made it a one run game two innings later on Arbogast’s RBI single to score Theis in the sixth inning.
Alger retired the 7-8-9 hitters on nine pitches to end the game.
“He’s not a hard thrower but he pitches to contact; kind of like Alec was,” Hughes said. “In a game like this it’s all about throwing strikes and not making mistakes. The other team hit the ball.”
The Blue Jackets graduate six seniors in Theis, Halcomb, Kirian, Arbogast, Brian Hughes and Mitchell Kramer.
All but Kramer lettered during their sophomore run that also ended in Lorain in the regional semifinals.
With this year’s senior class, another magical senior season appeared likely.
“It’s always nice to have senior leadership and those five guys, the leadership just to bring us together, it really paid off,” Hughes said. “It showed all the way to the end. I’ve coached a lot of teams and this team is more connected with one another than probably a lot of teams that I’ve ever coached.”
New Riegel 000 101 0 — 2 2 0
Dalton 000 300 x — 3 7 0
WP — Alger (3-1). LP — Zoeller (5-3). TOP HITTERS: (NR) Theis 1B; Arbogast 1B, RBI; Halcomb RBI. (Dal) Clark 1B, RBI; Hershberger 2-1B; Summers RBI; Hilty 1B, RBI.
RECORDS: New Riegel 21-6; Dalton 16-11.