XENIA – The Versailles baseball team overcame a four-run deficit to defeat Anna 6-5 on Friday and earn a spot in the state final four for the first time since 2000.
Just like last month’s regular season game against Anna, the Tigers took an early lead on the Rockets with a run in the top half of the first inning.
Kyle Subler and Keaton McEldowney led off Friday’s game with back-to-back walks. After a Brett McEldowney sacrifice, Subler scored on a wild pitch to put Versailles up 1-0.
The similarities to the regular season game continued as Anna bounced back from the early deficit and took a lead in the bottom of the first.
Anna’s Colin Wuebker drew a leadoff walk and Zach Watren bunted his way on to base. Luke Albers then hit a two-RBI triple, putting the Rockets ahead 2-1. Aidan Endsley increased Anna’s lead to 3-1 when he drove in Albers with a sacrifice fly.
In the third inning Anna added two more runs to increase its lead to four. Endsley singled and then Kain Luthman drilled a two-out home run to make it 5-1.
Unlike the regular season when Versailles couldn’t overcome its 5-1 deficit to Anna, the Tigers made a comeback on Friday.
The comeback started in the fourth inning with singles by Cole Niekamp and Jacob Watren. Jared Niekamp then hit a RBI single to reduce the deficit to 5-2. Moments later Keaton McEldowney reached on a two-out error, which allowed Jacob Watren to score to make it 5-3.
The Tigers continued to chip away at their deficit in the fifth inning. Kurtis Rutschilling doubled, Austin Knapke walked and Cole Niekamp singled to load the bases with no outs. Anna then picked up a pair of outs with a strikeout and a fielder’s choice at home, but then Knapke scored on a wild pitch to reduce the Versailles deficit to a single run, 5-4.
After clawing their way back into the game, the Tigers completed the comeback in the sixth inning.
Keaton McEldowney and Brett McEldowney drew back-to-back walks and Rutschilling was hit by a pitch to load the bases.
Knapke then walked, forcing in Keaton McEldowney for the tying run. After Anna’s second pitching change of the inning, Cole Niekamp walked to bring in Brett McEldowney for the game-winning run.
Anna out-hit Versailles nine to seven in Friday’s regional semifinal game. However, the Rockets made one error while the Tigers committed none and Rocket pitchers walked nine batters.
For Versailles Cole Niekamp was 2-for-3 with a walk, a RBI and a run. Jared Niekamp was 2-for-4 with a RBI. Rutschilling was 1-for-2 with a double, a walk and a stolen base. Brett McEldowney was 1-for-2 with a walk and a run.
Jacob Watren was 1-for-3 with a walk and a run. Knapke walked twice, scored a run and drove in a run. Keaton McEldowney walked twice and scored a run. Subler walked once and scored a run.
Cole Niekamp pitched 3 1/3 innings for Versailles, allowing five earned runs on four hits, two walks and two strikeouts. Jacob Heitkamp pitched 1 2/3 scoreless innings on three hits, no walks, two hit batters and two strikeouts. Keaton McEldowney pitched a scoreless inning, allowing one hit and hitting two batters while striking out one. Brett McEldowney also pitched a scoreless inning, surrendering one hit.
Versailles now advances to the final four of the Ohio High School Athletic Association state tournament for the eighth time in school history and the first time since 2000.
Versailles will play Berlin Hiland, who is ranked No. 1 in Division III in the Ohio High School Baseball Coaches Association state rankings, at 10 a.m. June 3 at Huntington Park in Columbus. The winner of that game will play on June 4 in the Division III state championship game.
Kyle Shaner may be reached at 937-569-4316. Follow me on Twitter @KShanerAdvocate or get updates on Facebook by searching Darke County Sports or Advocate 360. For more features online go to dailyadvocate.com.