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Red Knights Fall to Hiland, Finish as District Runners-Up

Photo by Andrew Grimm Toronto’s Blake Close pitches during the Division IV East District Championship against Hiland Thursday.

MINERVA — Considering it had only one senior and started a host of freshmen and sophomores throughout the season, the Toronto baseball team accomplished a lot this spring.

However, it’s list of accomplishments came to close on Thursday as the Red Knights had to settle for the East District runner-up trophy as Hiland repeated as district champs with a 10-0 victory at Minerva’s Carl Michael Field.

“Hiland is an excellent team year in and year out, they’re a good program,” Toronto head coach Brian Perkins said. “We start a lot of young guys and they came out and competed. I’m so very proud of this team, the future is bright.

“We won an OVAC title, the 27th-straight sectional title and finish district runner up, I couldn’t be more proud of these guys.

“We’re really young, our time is coming. I know our kids are looking forward to next year already.”

The Hawks, the No. 2 seed in the bracket, scored three runs in the first and never looked back enroute to a mercy-rule triumph. They improve to 16-9 and advance to next week’s regional tournament.

The youthful Red Knights, the No. 3 seed who finishes the season 18-12, did not have another rally in them to stay alive as they were limited to just one hit, a Zane Kinsey single in the third inning.

“This was the first time a lot of these guys had been in a situation like this, and it’s only going to make them better going forward,” Perkins said.

Toronto’s lone senior, Evan Wolter, got a lot of credit from his veteran skipper for being a leader of the young club.

“I’m going to miss him,” Perkins said of Wolter. “It’s always hard to say goodbye to seniors. He has been an exceptional leader of this team.”

Hiland’s Isaak Yoder seemed to have all the answers on the mound, as he fanned five, walked two and finished the game early by striking out the side in the top of the fifth, something his coach new was important with Toronto’s history of rallying.

“He was aggressive throwing strikes and wanted to attack their hitters,” Hiland coach Chris Dages said. “He did a good job. We didn’t want to let up, we know what Toronto can do. We wanted to stay on them and keep scoring runs.”

With the score already 3-0, Hiland’s Jeff Todaro blasted a two-run homer in the bottom of the third far over the fence in right center. He later added a sac fly.

Will Schlabach and Alec Weaver had RBI doubles in the bottom of the fourth, a four-run onslaught by the Hawks, capped by Dakota Miller’s RBI single to bring the mercy rule into play.

Toronto’s three pitchers (Blake Close, Nate Brownfield and Wolter) combined for three strikeouts and four walks.

Hiland, which won all four of its tournament games via the mercy rule in five innings, will face Whiteoak in the Region 15 opener next Thursday at Beavers Field in Lancaster.

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