Fort Loramie Baseball State Bound

Brian Smith
Staff Writer

Twice Fort Loramie’s tournament run seemed in danger — once after letting a big lead slip and once when the Redskins found themselves in one of those big deficits.

The Minster baseball team’s never-say-die attitude seemed to be on the cusp of lifting it to another magical comeback tourney win on Thursday night, a scene even sprinkled with the wafting cinematic dust of cottonwood fluff over the infield from nearby trees bouncing in the sun in this oasis of a Springfield park on a stifling, sunbaked night.

Rival Fort Loramie watched a five-run lead disappear to the reigning state champion, a Wildcat team that just days before proved how relentless it could be in tracking down and passing an opponent with a stupefying seven-run rally in its final at-bat.

Momentum, to say the least, did not appear to be on the Redskins’ side.

But a trio of Fort Loramie pitchers, a staff that head coach Jeff Sanders juggled throughout the game, dug in deep in the late innings. Players were moved around the diamond and eventually back onto the pitcher’s mound a gnawing, marathon affair.  Sanders pieced together seven innings to keep Minster at bay while Loramie’s always-potent bats came up with runs late to make the difference, end Minster’s reign as the Division IV state champion with a 7-5 win at packed Davidson-Carleton Stadium.

The odds seemed even worse a night later when the Redskins found themselves down 6-1 to Cincinnati Christian. But C.J. Billing crushed a grand slam in the fifth inning to get Fort lormaie to within 6-5 and then put Fort Loramie ahead 8-6 in the sixth inning with a two-run single. Fort Loramie hung on for the 8-7 win and is headed to state.

“These kids have been on a mission for a long time now,” said Fort Loramie head coach Jeff Sanders. “We got down, and that was a pretty big hole.That’s a big hole that really could put a lot of teams away.”

Fort Loramie will now play Garfield Heights Trinity at 10 a.m. on Thursday, May 31 at Huntington Park in Columbus in a Division IV state semifinal. The winner will play the winner of Hicksville and Mowrystown White Oak on Saturday at 10 a.m. for a state title.

Minster head coach Mike Wiss thinks the Wildcats’ rival from a few miles down State Route 66 has enough firepower to win it all.  Wiss, who was a teammate of Sanders’ on the University of Dayton baseball team in the late 1980s and early 1990s, said Fort Loramie’s bats make them a serious contender for their first state championship since winning crowns in 2007 and 2010.

“Loramie has what it takes to win the championship,” Wiss said. “They can do it. I’ve seen it before and we’ve been there before. They have that kind of team.”

First it took two daring escapes in Springfield.

“We knew it was win or go home,”  Sanders said after the Minster win. “We were going to exhaust every single resource and every single possibility we had. You’re not going to out-coach Coach Wiss and we just tried to battle and luckily all the pieces came together and we had the hits at the right time.”

“We had to buckle down and knew we have an offense that can score runs,” Sanders said. “It’s nothing to be fearful of to be in a tied game. We just had to have faith were going to score some more runs and our pitchers are going to battle and battle and battle and they did.”

Minster ended its season with a 22-8 record. “It’s a bunch of good kids that devoted two hours every day to baseball,” Wiss said. “That’s all I ever asked.”