Bears’ run ends in state semifinal


Twinsburg used small ball to take an early lead and a big inning to seal the deal late en route to a 4-1 Division I state semifinal win over state-ranked Olentangy Berlin Friday afternoon at Akron’s Canal Park.

Both teams faced adversity before the season started — the Bears’ athletic complex was severely damaged in a mid-March storm and the Tigers lost their coach in a December car crash — both showed their ability to bounce back from it all season long, though, and both showed it in the semifinal showdown, too.

Berlin was forced to play its first 16 games on the road — a stretch in which it finished 14-2.

Once the Bears got back to the friendly confines, well, it hasn’t mattered where they’ve played as they notched their first district and regional championships in program history on the way to the state’s biggest stage.

That’s where the run ended, though, as Twinsburg used a three-run sixth inning to gain some separation in the semifinal.

Berlin’s Taylor Bednar, who gave up just two hits in last week’s regional semifinal win over Olentangy Orange — a complete-game shutout with 10 strikeouts — was greeted with a single by the first batter he faced. He recovered well, though.

After a sac bunt moved the runner into scoring position, Bednar got the next two outs without much trouble to escape without any damage.

Ascher Dent started the second with a single, Berlin’s first hit, and Maddox Pulliam worked a one-out walk to put a couple runners on, but this time it was Twinsburg’s Josh Stalnaker who was able to wriggle off the hook.

The Tigers tried a similar approach in the second after Lane Conway walked on four pitches to get things started. This time … it worked.

AJ Taneja moved him up 90 feet with a sacrifice bunt and, after getting to third on a groundout, Kyler Hoon chased him home with a clutch two-out single to break the scoring seal.

Berlin’s Lucas Patrick picked up a two-out single in the third, but first base was as far as he got.

Twinsburg got aggressive in the bottom half, but it didn’t pay off. After Bobby Lemieux singled to start the inning, he was thrown out by Berlin catcher Parker McDaniels trying to steal second. The Tigers got a two-out single by Stalnaker after that, but nothing more came from it.

Jason Cox collected a two-out double in the fourth, but Bednar got Hoon, the hero from earlier, to line out to third and end the threat.

Berlin had the top of the lineup up to start the sixth … and made it count. Daniel Barreca walked to set the table and, after Patrick bunted him to second and McDaniels flied out to left, Dent came up with a two-out RBI single to even things at one.

That’s when the Tigers pounced.

Stalnaker started the sixth with a single, Kris Kimmel reached on throwing error and, after Taneja walked to load the bases, Cox walked to force in a run, Hoon singled to score another and a third came around on a sacrifice fly by Jaden Dye.

The Bears got a runner on in their final at-bat thanks to a Baret Spencer single, but he was stranded at first.

Stalnaker got the complete-game win, allowing a run on four hits while striking out seven and waking two. Lemieux, Stalnaker and Hoon had two hits apiece to lead the offense.

Dent had two hits to lead Berlin while Bednar, who allowed four runs on six hits while striking out seven and walking two over 5.1 innings of action, suffered the setback.

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