Indian Creek defeated in state semifinal game 4-2

Photo by Andrew Grimm Indian Creek’s Gavin Pownall winds up a throw against West Branch on Friday during a state semifinal game.

AKRON — The Indian Creek baseball team captivated the hearts and minds of their community, school and the Ohio Valley baseball community as a whole for the last couple of weeks with a run that will not soon be forgotten.

That run, though, came to an end a day earlier than the Redskins had hoped.

After Creek led through five innings, West Branch rallied back to end the Redskins’ dream run and instead be the ones advancing for a shot at the trophy with a 4-2 victory Friday in the OHSAA Baseball Championship Division II semifinals.

“These guys absolutely proved they belonged here, they played so hard,” Indian Creek head coach Mike Cottis said. “It was a great game. There were just a couple of little things that we could have done different and maybe it’s a different outcome.

“(It hurts) when you’re that close you can taste it, in the lead there late in the game we were counting the outs down. It just didn’t (go our way) at the end. It makes it a little more difficult.”

A large contingent from the Ohio Valley, both from Creek and neighboring communities, made the trip to Akron’s Canal Park and looked to be on their way to spending the night with Creek on top 2-1 going to the sixth inning, but the Warriors plated two in the sixth and another in the seventh, all with two outs, to rally back.

“I’m so proud of these boys,” Cottis said. “They made Indian Creek nation proud and they were out in full force.”

The trip to Akron was Creek’s first in program history after winning program-first district and regional titles in the last two weeks, feats that are sure to raise the bar for the program.

“Absolutely, we have higher expectations now,” Cottis said.

“We always expect to do great things but these guys raised the bar.

“They set the precedent now, I expect us to be even stronger next year.”

West Branch (26-6) advanced to take on Badin in the state championship game at Canal Park on Saturday in a match up of state-ranked teams. Badin (27-6), kept it’s scoreless run through the tournament intact with a 5-0 win over Padua Franciscan in the other semifinal.

As he had been throughout the tournament, Sylus Hyde was effective both on the mound and at the plate. The sophomore fired a complete game, allowing just two earned runs and six hits while striking out five. He also delivered Creek’s offense with a two-run single that gave the Redskins (22-7) the lead at the time.

“He threw a great game,” Cottis said. “You have to tip your hat to Sylus for how hard he worked out there.”

It was West Branch that struck first in the top of the first, as Hunter Shield’s hard-hit grounder after two quick outs was bobbled and he then scored on Beau Alazaus’ RBI triple.

In the bottom half, All-Ohian Ty Housholder was initially called safe on a close play at first leading off, but the call was reversed after the umpires conversed. The next batter, Hunter Rusnak, doubled to the wall, which may have tied the game had the original call stood. The Redskins left a pair stranded in the inning.

In the bottom of the third, after Hyde had fanned the side in the second and worked a 1-2-3 top of the third, Householder this time had a hit that left little doubt, tripling to the fence, but was prevented from scoring by being tagged out on a fielder’s choice on a heads up play by the Warriors.

After Landon and Gavin Pownall walked to load the bases with two outs, Creek would get on the board as Hyde ripped a hard-hit ball into the outfield and brought a pair of runs across for a 2-1 lead.

The Redskins, though, stranded a man in each of the next four innings, including having a leadoff double from Nick Maurer down a run in the sixth erased by a double play.

The Warriors rally came with two outs in the top of the sixth as Anthony Perry hit a two-out double to knot the score, then, after a throw to first on a play that would have ended the inning was just wide enough to pull the first baseman’s foot off the bag to extend the inning, Charlie Biskup singled in another run — the second unearned run of the game — to put West Branch back on top.

The Warriors added one in the top of the seventh on another tough-luck play as Aaron Tucker’s poke into shallow center just dropped in out of the reach of a diving effort from Householder to plate Boston Mulinix, who had singled and stole second.

“The things that didn’t go our way (Friday) are the things that went our way the last eight games,” Cottis said. “It was just a couple of small things (that made the difference), a couple of things maybe I could have done differently as well.”

In the bottom of the seventh, Landon Pownall drew a one-out walk but West Branch’s Beau Alazaus finished his complete game victory with a strikeout and a line out to close things out.

“It was a hard-fought game,” Creek senior Landon Pownall said. “We felt confident coming in … things just didn’t go our way in those couple of innings, that’s baseball. This was the best year of my life, I could not have asked for anything better (to end my high school career). It’s a season I’ll remember forever.”

“We gave everything we had, it unfortunately didn’t fall our way,” Maurer, Creek’s other senior, said. “I’m so happy about the run we had and everything we accomplished. I could not have asked for better teammates.”


The support from the community was not lost on the players.

“Our fans, our community really made this experience so special for us,” Maurer. “All the way through this run, they brought the energy. They’re a huge reason why we’re here.”


Landon Pownall and Maurer, who made his return from an injury after missing the regional final, were the lone seniors in the Creek lineup. Both were multi-year starters and key parts of the historic run.

“Landon Pownall and Nicky Maurer are just great leaders,” Cottis said. “We talk all the time about how they got these guys going on the off season with everything they did. They led by example on the field and the young guys really learned from them.”


With just the two seniors departing, seven of Friday’s starters and the whole bench will be back in Red and Gold next year with higher expectations and state tournament experience looking to win two more.

“The fact that we had a lot of juniors and sophomores in the lineup shows that we have a good nucleus coming back,” Cottis said. “We’re excited for next year.”

“I think getting here with two seniors this year showed (the younger) guys that they’re capable of anything,” Maurer said. “They’ll have pretty much the entire team back so I expect nothing less but them to be successful again. I think they’ll be back.”

“The best of Indian Creek baseball is yet to come,” Landon Pownall said.


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