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Paul Boggs: Falcons fall to Lake at state

Jun. 8—Previous

Minford senior shortstop Grant Wheeler (13)

Courtesy of Erica Fike

Minford senior pitcher Cam Thacker (33)

Courtesy of Erica Fike

Minford senior left fielder Carson Cronin (31)

Courtesy of Erica Fike

Minford senior center fielder Mason Book (27)

Courtesy of Erica Fike

Minford senior shortstop Grant Wheeler (13)

Courtesy of Erica Fike

Minford senior pitcher Cam Thacker (33)

Courtesy of Erica Fike

Minford senior left fielder Carson Cronin (31)

Courtesy of Erica Fike

Minford senior center fielder Mason Book (27)

Courtesy of Erica Fike

Minford senior shortstop Grant Wheeler (13)

Courtesy of Erica Fike

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Minford senior pitcher Cam Thacker (33)

Courtesy of Erica Fike

AKRON —Breakfast in Akron seemed to start well for the Minford Falcons on Saturday at least.

By noon and lunchtime, though, unfortunately the Falcons found themselves —and their storybook run through the Division III baseball tournament — finished for the season.

That's because Minford, making its second all-time state semifinal appearance, ran into a Lake Flyer buzzsaw named Drew Tajblik —as the Flyers shut out the Falcons 4-0 inside Akron's spectacular Canal Park.

Minford concluded its season at 22-7, as the game marked the final for seven seniors —Carson Cronin, Mason Book, Grant Wheeler, Rhyan Queen, Cam Thacker, Kyle Laxton and Isaac Porter.

In its march to June, the Falcons —the sixth-seeded squad in the Southeast District Division III tournament —knocked off Scioto County rivals Wheelersburg for the district championship and Portsmouth for the regional title.

In their Region 11 tournament tilts, the Falcons rallied past Barnesville 11-4 in the semifinals —prior to erasing a 5-1 deficit against the Trojans and taking that regional championship 6-5.

But trailing 4-0 on Saturday, Minford managed just four hits — a Cronin leadoff single on the first pitch in the bottom of the first, a Cronin two-out infield hit in the third, a Thacker leadoff infield hit in the seventh, and finally a Carter Frazie single in the seventh.

The only other Minford baserunners were Queen with a one-out walk in the fourth, followed by junior catcher J.D. Matiz making it on via the Flyers' only error of the morning in the fourth.

Minford senior leftfielder Carson Cronin (31)

Courtesy of Erica Fike

Cronin reached second in the first on a passed ball, the Falcons' fourth-frame runners were left at second and first, and finally Minford mustered runners on the corners in the last.

But Lake junior standout pitcher Tajblik, a University of Toledo commit, totally kept the Falcons from getting that timely hit.

In his postgame media interview, that was a point of emphasis for Minford head coach Eli Daniels, who completed his second season skippering the Falcons on Saturday.

"All tournament, we've escaped jams left and right. For the regional tournament, we didn't do our damage until the fifth inning on. They have a great team and a great pitcher, and he's (Tajblik) definitely up there, probably top three for pitchers we've faced all year. But we just didn't get that timely hit that we need. Probably only had five runners max, so we just didn't get on base and we didn't get that timely hit that we needed to light that spark. But that's baseball," he said. "You have to have timely hitting, timely pitching, timely fielding."

He faced the Falcon lineup three times thru, and struck out seven batters on 104 total pitches —65 for strikes.

Tajblik is now 12-0 record-wise on the season.

His pitching counterpart Thacker threw more than well enough to win —going the distance like Tajblik, and allowing four earned runs on six hits with two second-inning walks and seven strikeouts.

He fired 107 total pitches with 74 for strikes, as both teams made one defensive error.

Thacker, in fact, retired the Flyers 1-2-3 in innings one, five and six —and saw the minimum three in the seventh, following four Flyers faced in the fourth.

But Lake scored all four runs early on —one run on two hits in the second, and two runs on three hits in the third.

Tajblik tallied two hits and a run scored, as Caleb Tobias had two hits and two runs batted in — including an RBI-double in the second, which made it 1-0 and proved to be all the runs needed for the Flyers to win.

Jack Sobzack blooped a one-out single to center amid a triangle of Falcon fielders, and the first two of Thacker walks moved him to second.

Tobias took Thacker to the right-centerfield gap, as Sobzack raced around for the 1-0 lead.

But the third inning was Minford's ultimate undoing.

Tajblik led off with a deep infield single and stole second, and Jay Blazevich singled to right for runners on the corners.

Ryan Wagner then grounded to Queen at third, but Tajblik beat the throw on the fielder's choice try home —setting up Flyers on the corners again.

Sobzack had an RBI-groundout to first, scoring Blazevich —with Wagner moving to second.

Aiden Young then reached on another unsuccessful Falcon fielder's choice —this time when Wheeler at shortstop tried to nail Wagner motoring to third.

Tobias then singled again —this time to right to plate Wagner for the 4-0 advantage.

Daniels described the third frame for his Falcons.

From that point on, Lake made nothing but outs against Thacker —sans Tajblik singling and stealing second in the fourth.

In the seventh, Blazevich reached on Minford's only error, but was thrown out at second on a 6-3-4.

"I don't think we executed the routine plays in that third inning. I mean Cam (Thacker) threw great all game. I think he only had two or three hard hits, and the big inning they had, there were a lot of droopy balls and they are a fast team. They are a good team. All you have to do is put the ball in play and make the defense stress out. We stressed out a little too much and they got a couple of runs off it," said Daniels. "Other than that, Cam did what Cam does and that's pitch a heckuva game."

He actually recorded outs on 14 of the final 15 Flyers he faced.

Wheeler led the way in the field —with six assists and one putout.

Minford senior shortstop Grant Wheeler (13)

Courtesy of Erica Fike

Wheeler, along with Thacker, were just two of the team leaders as seniors —which were, before Saturday, part of the Region 11 runner-up as freshmen, a Region 11 semifinalist as sophomores, and as Southeast District runners-up as juniors.

Minford made the state tournament in 2018, were Region 11 runners-up the next year —and who knows what the 2020 canceled campaign would have resulted in.

But the Falcons of this year started to soar in the season's second half.

"That's where their leadership took over," said Daniels. "Dad (Minford assistant coach Brent Daniels) said it best when he said the second half of this season, they took over the team. Once they started doing that, that's when we started clicking and got us here."

And, here meant breakfast in Akron on Saturday —when the Ohio baseball world thought it originally wasn't likely.

Minford senior centerfielder Mason Book (27)

Courtesy of Erica Fike

"These boys have done it this year. They are the epitome of Minford Falcon baseball. I couldn't be prouder of these boys. From what they've done this year, from where we started to where we finished, not too many thought we would make it to the Final Four. We had a group of 18 kids that believed. They bought into the system and executed the system. We had seven seniors that led us all the way here. That's all you can ask for. I couldn't be happier. They made it easy for me. Maybe a little stressful at times, but it made it easy for me to coach," said Daniels. "Couldn't be happier with how the season turned out. I know it didn't end like we wanted it to, but there's not too many baseball teams in the state left playing today. Something to be proud of."

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Lake 013 000 0 — 4 6 1

Minford 000 000 0 —0 4 1

LHS: Drew Tajblik 7IP, 0R, 0ER, 4H, 0HB, 1BB, 0IBB, 0WP, 7K, 27BF

MHS: Cam Thacker 7IP, 4R, 4ER, 6H, 0HB, 2BB, 0IBB, 0WP, 7K, 31BF

W —Drew Tajblik (12-0); L —Cam Thacker (10-3)

Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at pboggs@aimmediamidwest.com, or on X @paulboggssports © 2024 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved