Sun June 3, 2012
By Will Swary
COLUMBUS- After losing a perfect game bid with one out in the 7th, Wheelersburg freshman Wade Martin was able to compose himself enough to record the final two outs to defeat Lima Central Catholic 1-0 in the Division III state final.
The 7th inning came and Martin still had his perfect game bid, after striking out nine batters in the previous six innings. It was with one out in the 7th when Sienna Heights recruit Travis Clark stepped up for the T-Birds and delivered a shot down the right-field line for a triple, breaking up the perfect game and putting a runner on third with one out in a one-run game.
Senior Ryan Cousey came in to pinch run for Clark to provide more speed and the next hitter, junior Connor Dee, would test it. Dee hit a hard grounder to sophomore second baseman Garrett Carmichael who came home with it, firing a throw to the sophomore catcher Dylan Miller, who caught it to his right and then swung back to his left to try and swipe a charging Cousey. The crowd stood quietly stunned at the play which appeared too close to call before the umpire pronounced Cousey out, claiming the tag was made on the chest area before the runner reached home plate. That controversial play would end the T- Birds only scoring threat and secure the title for the Pirates.
It was a pitching duel from the get-go as both hurlers dominated in different ways. Junior Nick Watkins threw brilliantly for Lima Central Catholic, going the distance allowing two hits while throwing just 65 pitches. Watkins worked the strike zone low, in shutting down the Wheelersburg attack. The unfortunate part was that Watkins, despite his great effort, was outdueled by Martin.
It was all about power and location for Martin, who used his 82-83 mph fastball along with a 62-64 mph curve to keep the T-Bird hitters off balance. Location was the real key as he pounded the strike zone low and away, proving unhittable for Lima Central Catholic, which struck out six times in the first three innings.
"I felt pretty good, I felt like I was throwing as hard as I have in a while, my curve was slicing pretty good." Martin said after the game.
As for pitching in such a big game as a freshman?
"My teammates could tell I was nervous yesterday so I tried to relax today," Martin said. "I felt like I was just flying out there today, real loose, real relaxed."
If completed Martin's perfect game would have been the first in OHSAA state tournament history. Instead, he goes down as a local hero with a remarkable performance under his belt in his young career.
The state title was the second in school history for No. 3 Wheelersburg the other coming in 1996. Wheelersburg, the state runners-up in 2010, finishes the season 30-2, one of two teams in Ohio to reach 30 wins, the other being division II power Defiance (30-2).
This was No. 18 Lima Central Catholic's first state championship appearance. The T-Birds finished with a 22-9 record.