Bremen catcher Drew Coffel went from goat to hero in a span of a few minutes in the 8th inning of the 2A baseball sectional championship game Monday afternoon at Westview.
In the top of the frame, the freshman backstop uncorked a wild throw into left field, allowing Warrior base runner Judah Zickafoose to trot home to score a valuable insurance run. Seconds earlier, Jamar Weaver had tallied the go-ahead run on a sacrifice fly to left off the bat of Kohle Christner.
But in the bottom of the inning, Coffel redeemed himself. After Lion teammates Jacob Bennitt and Eric Knepper had reached base by drawing walks, Coffel cranked the first pitch he saw from Zickafoose over the left-field fence for a three-run homer to give Bremen a dramatic, 8-7 victory and its first sectional championship in 12 years.
“We had the guy (Zickafoose) on the mound that we wanted in that situation, but the Bremen kid (Coffel) hit the ball perfect and it went out,” shrugged Warrior coach Jason Rahn. “I have no problem tipping my hat to him or to Bremen. They are a great team. They just made a couple more plays than we did.”
Bremen built a 3-0 lead through the fourth inning on a two-run single by Bennitt and an RBI infield safety by Bobby Cornett.
The Warriors finally got their bats going in the fifth. Jamin Lambright, who smacked a leadoff double, scored the first Westview marker on a single by Hunter Christner.
A Bremen misplay of Weaver’s grounder and a bunt single by Jake Berkey loaded the bases with no out. Cornett retired the next two Warriors, but Tarrin Beachy then delivered a screaming drive to the left-center field fence, bringing home all three of his teammates and putting the hosts in front, 4-3.
“Tarrin really picked up our No. 3 and 4 hitters with that shot,” said Rahn of Beachy.
The Lions took back the lead with two runs in the bottom of the same inning. Cornett singled home Coffel for one of the tallies, while Cornett scored the other from third base when Beachy was called for a balk.
Westview responded with a run in the top of the sixth to knot the count at 5-all. John Yoder led off the frame with a single, advanced to third on a walk to Christner and a single by Weaver, and came home on Berkey’s sacrifice fly.
The score stayed deadlocked through the next inning and a half. Damon Miller, who relieved Beachy on the hill in the sixth, tossed two scoreless frames before giving way to Zickafoose in the eighth.
Westview nearly broke the tie in its half of the seventh when Jeremy Hochstetler and Yoder singled with one out. Both moved into scoring positions on stolen bases, but were left stranded when Christner’s screaming liner to right was snagged just above the grass by Bremen outfielder Bryce Cassel.
Cornett went 4-4 at the plate for the Lions and scored twice. Drew Coffel finished with two hits and three runs. Bryce Cassel and Dillon Mullen each chipped in two hits.
Bennitt garnered the pitching win, fanning two and walking one in three innings of relief. Bremen starter Cornett allowed seven hits, walked one and whiffed five in five frames of work.
Weaver and Beachy each smacked a couple of safeties for Westview, which closes its season with an 18-9 record.
“This team has come a long way since the start of the season and has nothing to hang about,” said Rahn of his Warriors. “I just wish it could have ended a little differently.”
Bremen will take a 20-9 record into 2A regional play at Whiting this Saturday. The Lions will play the winner of the Fort Wayne Luers sectional in the first regional semifinal tilt at 11 a.m. (LaGrange time).