CAMBRIDGE - The bigger the games get, the more magnified mental mistakes become.
Monroe Central learned that the hard way Friday afternoon at Don Coss Field inside City Park.
The Seminoles were victimized by a pair of base-running gaffes at third base and Fort Frye made them pay by posting a hard-earned 3-2 victory in an Ohio Division III sectional final.
"We had a feeling it was going to be fairly tight and the last few days in practice we stressed base running and simple mistakes," Monroe Central coach Ryan Rosnick said. "We knew we had to make the simple plays and that came back to haunt us. Plus, we couldn't catch a break because it seemed like every time we hit the ball hard, it was right at them."
While the Seminoles finish a strong season at 17-11, the Cadets are making travel plans to Warsaw where they'll meet Ridgewood in the district final on Tuesday at 5 p.m.
"It's never easy losing, but it always makes it easier when you know you've gotten beat by a team that's pretty good," Rosnick said. "They're well coached and I have all the respect in the world for (Coach) Sonny (Bidwell) and Fort Frye."
Monroe Central appeared to be in business and ready to strike big in the first inning. Kordell Antill led off with a double into the left-field gap and Ethan Groves followed with a looping single. Groves then stole second, putting runners on second and third with nary an out.
"We definitely got out of some tight situations at times," Bidwell said. "We're happy to be able to make those plays when we had to and be able to move on because Monroe Central is a quality team."
However, Fort Frye induced a pop out and then starting pitcher Casey Hall got a roller to third and Antill got a bad break to the plate and was easily thrown out.
"I think it was miscommunication," Rosnick said. "I told him it was off on contact. He just didn't get a good jump and he knew he was a dead duck."
The game stayed scoreless until the bottom of the fourth when Fort Frye pushed across a run on a RBI groundout by Bradley Martin, which scored Derek Layton.
The Seminoles, however, answered quickly and tied the game in the next half inning. Seth Alleman produced a one-out single and was moved up to second on a sacrifice bunt. Antill then promptly drove him in with a single through the left side.
"This was a hard-fought battle," Bidwell said. "Monroe's kids played really well and our kids produced when we needed them. Our pitchers kept battling. I'd like to see more production from our kids, offensively."
Fort Frye took the lead for good in the fifth. Spencer Lang reached on an error, swiped second and third and then was doubled home two hitters late by Hall. Layton reached on an infield single and Hall scored what proved to be the game winning run on an error after the ball squirted away at first base.
Monroe, however, didn't go quietly. Jacob Black had a single and Eric Ward was then plunked, which led Bidwell to go to his pen and bring in Lang. He was greeted rudely as Peter Frontz singled through the right side to score Black.
Ward was cut down at third after making a wide turn and the throw from right was a strike to the catcher, who fired it for the out.
"I was trying to stop him, but by the time he got stopped, he was too far off and they got him," Rosnick said. "That's high school baseball. Things like that happen from time to time. When you play good teams, that don't make many mistakes, those things hurt."
Monroe Central had two runners aboard in the seventh, but Lang induced a comebacker for the final out to finish the save and preserve the pitching victory for Hall.
"What can you say?" Rosnick asked. "Fort Frye deserved to win. But, I am proud of my guys. I am also appreciative of the support we received from our fans and our students."
Seminoles' pitcher Dylan Hamilton was the tough-luck losing pitcher. He threw a complete game, allowed seven hits. He struck only one, but he didn't walk a hitter.
Antill's offensive production was complemented by Frontz's two hits.