By DAVE HANNEMAN
COLUMBUS — Greg Bergstedt had to get on his horse to run down the last out of Patrick Henry's 9-2 win over Fort Loramie Friday in the Division IV state baseball semifinals.
But Bergstedt wasn't the only thoroughbred the Patriots had on the field.
Using its speed on offense and a workhorse effort by Zach Botjer on the mound, Patrick Henry got out of the gates quickly and never slowed down against Fort Loramie.
The win, the 27th of the season for No.1-ranked Patrick Henry, earned the Patriots (26-3) a spot opposite Berlin Hiland (26-3) in today's 7 p.m. state championship game at Cooper Stadium in Columbus.
Hiland nipped Gates Mills Gilmour Academy 5-4 in Friday's late Division IV semifinal.
"I thought he had a gutty performance," said Greg Inselmann, who coached Defiance to a Division I state championship in 1992 and is now trying to do the same with Patrick Henry.
"He made the pitches when he had to and we made defensive plays when we had to have them."
"We took a lot of pitches the first time through (the lineup). I think he was in the 40s (pitches) after two innings," Fort Loramie coach Bill Sturwold said after the Redskins, the defending Division IV state champions, ended their season at 21-12.
"But he never flattened out. He still made good pitches when he had to and he got some big strikeouts. He's a very good pitcher."
It wasn't a flawless effort by Botjer. The senior right-hander put the lead-off man on in the first, second, third, fifth and seventh innings. He did strikeout six, but he walked six as well.
"It makes my hair grayer when he puts that first guy on like that," Inselmann said.
"This was one of those days when he played the role of Houdini once again. He wiggled off the hook a couple of times."
Botjer issued two of those six walks in the first inning. But he struck out Derek Coverstone, one of Fort Loramie's top hitters, and Mitch Raterman to end the inning. An inning-ending strikeout erased another lead-off walk in the second.
Fort Loramie ran itself out of a rally or two as well.
A single and a one-out walk had the Redskins threatening in the third. But Patrick Henry catcher Tyler Phillips gunned the lead runner down on a double steal and a pop-up ended the threat.
"We did not play our best game today. That's what I'm most disappointed about," Sturwold said.
Two walks in the fifth came back to haunt Botjer when RBI singles by Jay Schulze and Raterman cut Patrick Henry's lead to 4-2.
But the Patriots responded with a three-run rally that both coaches pegged as pivotal to the outcome of the game.
"They had the momentum there," Inselmann said. "We had to answer back, and we did."
"That was a very big inning on their part," Sturwold said. "If we could have gotten a quick one-, two-, three-inning, we had the momentum and there's a lot of things we still could have done. But when they got those three runs it changed everything. You're starving to get that tying run up there when you're down five (runs)."
Mitch Leonard walked leading off the last of the fifth and Luke George, after fouling off two bunt attempts, grounded a single off the third baseman's glove. Kyle Reese also tried a sacrifice bunt, but he placed it so well and hustled down the line so fast he beat it out for a hit.
Chris Boyer, who had a clutch two-out, two-run double in the third inning, then singled in a run with a base hit to left. George was out at the plate on Cody Meyer's fielders choice grounder, but Austin Bower, back in the lineup after being sidelined by an injury, doubled to center to make it a 7-2 game.
Patrick Henry made it 9-2 in the sixth when Reese singled in a run and another scored on a wild pitch.
Inselmann likes to pressure teams into early mistakes and that aggressive approach paid off quickly for Patrick Henry.
After George reached on a first-inning error and Reese singled, Boyer hit a fly ball to right. Fort Loramie's Mitch Ahlers had no trouble with the catch, but his relay to the infield found no one. Third baseman Andy Schielte had to run it down and when he went after it, George broke for home. He beat Schielte's flip and slid under Coverstone's tag.
Reese, meanwhile, was rounding the bases as well. When Coverstone saw him booking for third he pegged a throw that skipped into left field, allowing Reese to score the second run of the inning and giving Patrick Henry an edge it never lost.
"It kind of takes the starch out of another team when you execute like that," Inselmann said.
The top four men in Patrick Henry's lineup — Leonard (2-1B, 3 runs scored), George (1B, 2B, 2 runs), Reese (3-1B, RBI, 2 runs) and Boyer (2-1B, 3 RBI) — were a combined 9-for-14 at the plate, drove in four runs, and scored seven.
"Those guys have some speed and we expect them to get on base," Inselmann said. "A good thing about this team is that tomorrow it might be the bottom half of the lineup that comes through."
Botjer might even make an encore on the mound ... if needed.
"Kyle Reese will start and we have two or three guys we can use, too," Inselmann said. "We're going to throw everything we can at the team that wins this second game."
And for the Patriots, that is a deep stable indeed.
Fort Loramie 000 020 0 — 2 4 4
Patrick Henry 202 032 x — 9 12 2
WP — Botjer (12-1). LP — Long (9-3). top hitters: (Ft.L) Schulze 1B, RBI; Raterman 1B, RBI. )PH) Leonard 2-1B; George 1B, 2B; Reese 3-1B, RBI; Boyer 2-1B 3 RBI; Bower 2B, 2 RBI..
records: Fort Loramie 21-12, Patrick Henry 27-3.
Contact staff writer Dave Hanneman at: