ACME State Show appearances are nothing new to either of Defiance County’s two teams in the field this week at Ed Sandy Field in Elida.
For the others, however, it is an achievement that is the first of its kind.
Defiance will be battling for its 11th ACME State Tournament Championship when the 2021 tournament kicks off in Elida on Saturday morning, while Tinora will perform for the first time in program history on a historic summer track.
Defiance (18-4-1) took a 6-3 comeback win over Wayne Trace in the District 1 final on Monday, recovering from a 3-0 hole after the top of the first inning to keep the Raiders for the fade out the last six frames and reach the ACME state tournament as district champion for the first time since 2017.
Defiance entered the 2018 State Tournament as an automatic qualifier as a tournament host, but did not win District 1 that year.
For the program’s continued success, the Bulldogs haven’t won the entire enchilada in a three-year title series from 2012 to 2014, but the importance of the summer table for the DHS program is not lost with the members of the team.
“We believed in ACME 100 percent,” said Defiance coach Rick Weaver after the Bulldogs’ decisive victory. “I think it’s so unique that we can play 20, 25, 30 games with our team next spring, I mean, that’s huge. No other sport can do that. It has always been a priority for us and returning to the state is always our top priority in the summer. “
For Tinora was a dominant run through the District 2 tournament, in which the Rams (21-2) sailed through the section round without loss, including the elimination of two-time defending champions Archbold, who had reached the state championship game four years in a row.
That run continued on the Miller City county field when Tinora knocked out Kalida 8-0 to start the bracket and then rallied six runs together in the fifth and sixth innings to fight back from a 5-2 hole against Wauseon to prevail with 8: 7.
Adversity hit the Rams again in the district finals when Miller City fought back from the losing group and sent eight thugs to the plate in the first inning to take a 3-0 lead. Losing 4-2 in the fifth inning, Tinora again had his answer with a base-loaded fly ball drop to score a pair of runs and tie the game before an outfield miss allowed another run.
Tinora took three more runs when junior pitcher Eli Plassman allowed just one hit after the first inning and fanned out seven to seal the deal on the program’s first-ever district final appearance.
“We took advantage of the wrong decisions made by the opposing teams or whatever we needed at the time,” said Tinora coach Doug Plassman. “The guys thrive at getting big hits when they need it and playing from behind, and that’s up to them. This is not coaching, this is just that when they have to dig deep, they dig deep.
“It’s fun to train them and watch them play. For the parents in the stands it is certainly a bit more nerve-wracking. “
The District Champions from Defiance County will travel to Elida on Saturday as the eight teams in the singles elimination field for the semi-finals on the Sunday before the state championship game on Monday night at 6 p.m. at Ed Sandy Field will be reduced to four teams.
Defiance will play the District 3 Perrysburg champions in the second game of the day at 12:30 PM after Van Wert, the District 5 winner, faces Bellefontaine or Indian Lake from District 6 at 10 AM
Tinora will pursue the Defiance title at 3pm with a fight against District 4 survivor St. Henry before hosts Elida and District 7 champion Versailles finish the game with a 5:30 competition.
The winners of the quarter-finals on Saturday will meet at 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. in the bracket semi-finals.
Both Defiance and Tinora will face opponents at the state tournament that they did not meet in the summer.
“Dave Hall is doing a great job in Perrysburg, he’s one of the most respected coaches not just in northwest Ohio but all of Ohio so it’s going to be great fun,” said Weaver. “In terms of buttons, however, it’s pretty straightforward. We don’t want any mistakes, no walks and lots of base hits. “
For Tinora, any perceived pressure from the program’s first state appearance fell by the wayside.
“We’ve never made it to the county championship so we’ve all set new records,” said Plassman. “But (Senior) Jayden Bergman said it (Monday) night after we won, now that we won, let’s win the state championship too. It’s a win-or-go home format and we haven’t been beaten yet, so that’s our goal this weekend. “