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  • Val T.

Reinartz, Paulik clutch at plate, on mound, lead Rochester past Manchester

BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS

Sports Editor, RTC


Tanner Reinartz Carson Paulik


WABASH — Take a deep breath, Rochester baseball coach Cory Good told his battery and infielders on the mound with the Zebras hanging on to a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the eighth inning against Manchester in a Class 2A, Sectional 36 quarterfinal at Chris Rood Field Wednesday.

In perhaps the most intense moment of the season, Carson Paulik summoned enough oxygen and fortitude to get the final two outs and earn the victory as the Zebras hung on to beat the Squires 3-2 in an extra-inning instant classic.

Tanner Reinartz drilled the game-winning two-run double off the top of the left field fence in the top of the eighth inning, and Paulik followed with an RBI single to score Reinartz.

Reinartz also started on the mound and pitched six scoreless innings. Paulik pitched the final two innings.

Rochester improved to 17-10. Manchester finished 20-7-1.

“Just extremely proud of this group,” Good said. “And I don’t think we’re done yet.”

Evan Martynowicz, a senior with whom many Zebras were familiar from both school and travel ball, took the loss despite allowing only four hits through 7 ⅔ innings. Martynowicz reached the 120-pitch maximum in the eighth inning and had to be replaced per IHSAA pitch count rules.

Harper Sturtsman got the final out in the top of the eighth to keep the deficit at three.

Manchester had scored twice in the eighth on Reiss Gaerte’s two-run double, and when the cutoff throw from shortstop to try and Gaerte at second was wild for an error and rolled towards the right field foul line, Gaerte raced to third with one out.

Good called timeout for the mound conversation.

“I told everybody to take a deep breath,” Good said. “Expect the baseball to come back at you. We thought ‘Marty’ hit a lot on the ground. We had his number at the plate, so we felt pretty confident in that at-bat. … Relax. Times are going to get tough, and let’s see how we react to it.”

Martynowicz stepped in the box. He fouled the first two pitches off, including a liner just foul down the right field line on Paulik’s second pitch.

Paulik’s third pitch was a fastball. Martynowicz took it for a called third strike.

That brought up freshman Harper Sturtsman. Sturtsman then hit a chopper to short. Brady Coleman charged, gathered and threw to Tanner Reinartz at first to end the game.

Sturtsman, a .381 hitter, went 0 for 3 on the day.

The Zebra players seemingly simultaneously threw their gloves in the air in celebration as soon as the final out was recorded.

“It was great,” Reinartz said. “Smiles for sure. A smile from ear to ear. That’s all you can ask for.”

They had lost to Manchester 9-5 in Three Rivers Conference play on April 24. Manchester had shared the TRC title with Peru and were ranked No. 8 – they were the only ranked team in the sectional coming in – but they only managed five hits against Reinartz and Paulik despite a .328 team batting average coming into the game.

Martynowicz’s control could be both pinpoint but fallible: He walked none but hit five batters, including two in the eighth inning.

Martynowicz nicked Parker Casper with a pitch to lead off the eighth. Manchester coach Shane Smith asked the three umpires to confer, arguing that the ball hit Casper’s bat and not Casper.

They stayed with their class.

Coleman struck out, but Martynowicz then hit Gavin Young with a pitch.

That brought up Reinartz, who had been 0 for 3 on the day. A junior, Reinartz is among those on the Zebras who was quite familiar with Martynowicz. He said Martynowicz had thrown first-pitch curves to him all day. He was waiting.

“I kind of knew what was coming,” Reinartz said. “First pitch curve ball. That’s what I got the first pitch of every at-bat. I kind of saw it coming.”

Reinartz hit a towering fly that pushed Manchester left fielder Riley Shock to the fence. The ball hit the top of the fence – Wabash observers remarked that there has not been an over-the-fence homer at Chris Rood Field this season – and bounded back in the field of play.

Casper and Young raced home.

“I did think it was gone,” a smiling Reinartz said later. “It got all the barrel. That’s all you can ask for. … It was great. It’s what every little kid dreams of, for sure.”

Paulik then hit a sharp grounder up the middle. The ball ticked off Ethan Hendrix’s glove and into center field. Reinartz scored from second to make it 3-0.

Paulik walked Hendrix to start the eighth. One out later, He advanced to second when Gavin Martin reached on an error. A wild pitch moved runners to second and third.

Gaerte had doubled and homered against Rochester in the April 24 game, and he pulled a sharp liner to left.

Good’s decision to take Reinartz out after six innings in a 0-0 game – he retired 11 of the last 12 batters he faced – was strategic and risky. Reinartz threw only 78 pitches. Per IHSAA pitch count rules, he is eligible to return for the semifinal game against Bremen at 1 p.m. Saturday. Had he thrown 81 or more, he would have been ineligible for Saturday.

But Paulik had to be on, or there would be no Saturday.

With the pitching change, the defense was reconfigured. Reinartz moved to first base, Casper moved from first to center, Drew Bowers from center to left, Colton Ferverda from left to right, Brant Beck from right to second base and Coleman from second base to shortstop.

Paulik allowed Payton Jones’ one-out single in the seventh. Jones later stole second, but Paulik got Evan Estep on a pop to short and whiffed pinch-hitter Dallas Martin to send the game to extra innings with the game scoreless.

“We thought the timing was right there going back to the top in the seventh,” Good explained. “Kind of threw a new arm out, a different look a little bit. But I thought both those guys did tremendous. That’s probably Tanner’s most efficient game he’s thrown all year long, and it’s exactly what we needed tonight.”

Rochester 3, Manchester 2 (8 innings)

Rochester 000 000 03 – 3 4 2

Manchester 000 000 02 – 2 5 0

WP – Carson Paulik (2 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 3 K)

LP – Evan Martynowicz (7 ⅔ IP, 4 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 0 BB, 5 HBP, 9 K)

2B – Tanner Reinartz (RHS), Reiss Gaerte (MAN)


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