By ANDY WOLF
SHELBY — Upper Sandusky baseball coach Scott Emerick has some research to do.
He wasn’t sure when or if the Rams had ever before won a district baseball title.
Whether it has district hardware or not, Upper Sandusky came from behind to top Gibsonburg 4-1 in Saturday’s Division III district final.
“It’s a hard feeling to explain,” Emerick said. “These kids have been playing so hard and they’re such great teammates.
“They couldn’t be more deserving.”
Upper Sandusky, 21-5 and ranked No. 7 among Ohio’s Division III teams, will face Archbold (25-3) at 2 p.m. Thursday in the regional semifinals at Elida’s Ed Sandy Field. The Blue Streaks, ranked No. 1 in the Division III coaches poll, dispatched No. 11 and previously unbeaten Lake 15-0 in their district final.
Upper Sandusky is regional bound after some timely hitting, error-free defense and a shut-down performance by starting pitcher Brenyn Marquart.
Marquart allowed all five of his hits and two of his three walks in the first three innings.
The Golden Bears tagged him for a run in the first inning on Cole Witte’s two-out RBI double.
Marquart recovered to fire 1-2-3 innings in the fourth, sixth and seventh and finished with nine strikeouts.
“Fastball command, getting ahead of the batters,” Marquart said. “At first, my curve and my offspeed, I was kind of missing with it.
“In the later innings, I started finding a feel for it and just pounded the zone.”
His counterpart, Gibsonburg’s Austin Biddle, was unhittable through 42/3 innings.
But not untouchable.
Biddle set down the first batter he faced for his only strikeout and was throwing a no-hitter into the fifth inning. But the Rams didn’t need a base hit to tie it.
Upper’s Ben Sheaffer reached as Biddle fielded a soft comebacker but threw wide of first base.
Sheaffer got to third on another error and scored with two outs as Gibsonburg second baseman Nate Reyes booted Jaxon Passet’s grounder.
“If we dwell on it, then nothing good is going to come from it,” Marquart said of being no-hit. “We had to keep that mindset, keep hitting the ball hard and it’ll find a hole.”
After all the hard contact Upper had with no prior success, Jordan Wright laid down a beauty of a bunt down the third baseline to break up the no-no one batter later.
The hits kept coming.
Cole Sowers led off the sixth with a single, Parker Frombaugh drew a walk and Marquart laced an 0-2 pitch up the middle to score Sowers and give the Rams a 2-1 lead.
Two batters later, Sheaffer cranked a two-run single for some insurance runs.
Sheaffer came through just as big in the top of the fifth with his cannon of an arm.
With Biddle, Gibsonburg’s leadoff hitter, on third and one out, Fred Sisco flared a ball to Sheaffer in shallow right for the second out.
Biddle tagged, and Sheaffer uncorked a laser to catcher Brandon Giesey for an inning-ending double play.
“Everyone was saying, ‘shoot four, shoot four,’ and I was thinking ‘Chill. I don’t even have the ball yet,'” Sheaffer said. “I didn’t realize it was going to be on line because of the wind; I’m fighting the wind all curving, it just so happened I threw it right on the line.”
It was one of many stellar defensive plays by the Rams.
One inning prior, first baseman Jason Holly caught a frozen rope and doubled off the runner at first for an unassisted double play. That stifled Gibsonburg’s first-and-second, nobody-out threat.
In the top of the seventh, shortstop Diago Cazares showed his range to make a play and throw to first for the first out.
“That stuff right there, even though we were losing at the time, that starts your momentum right there,” Emerick said.
The Rams will hope to keep their momentum going against Archbold.
“It’s all about mindset,” Marquart said. “If we don’t come in with a good mindset, we’re just going to be down the whole game. We have to come in mentally ready and physically ready.
“We’re going to play hard and play as hard as we can, do the things we need to do and we’ll see what happens.”
Gibsonburg 100 000 0 — 1 5 4
Upper Sandusky 000 013 x — 4 4 0
WP — Marquart. LP — Biddle. TOP HITTERS: (Gib) Witte 2B, RBI; Biddle 2B. (US) Sowers 1B; Marquart 1B; Sheaffer 1B, 2 RBI; Wright 1B.
RECORDS: Gibsonburg 18-5; Upper Sandusky 21-5.