Prep Baseball Report

2024 OHSAA Tournament: Division I State Final - No. 6 Mason vs No. 12 Twinsburg

Bruce Hefflinger
Prep Baseball Ohio Senior Writer

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2024 OHSAA Tournament: Division I State Final - No. 6 Mason vs No. 12 Twinsburg

AKRON - The first Mason state championship in school history came in impressive fashion on Sunday with an 8-1 victory over Twinsburg.

Starting pitcher Michael Bilo lasted into the sixth inning before Bryce Brannon and Ben Hanley finished it up for the sixth-rated team in Ohio.

"He's a bulldog," Mason head coach Curt Bly said of Bilo, who threw 5.1 innings before a walk and hit batter brought an exit. "He wasn't quite as sharp as last Friday but he was good enough. Once you get a lead and then stretch it like we did, two big innings in the middle of the game, it changed the complexion. Michael did exactly what he needed to do."

Bilo had plenty of bat support, with the Comets pounding out 11 hits against the 12th-ranked team in in the state, including  two by Casey Doner who hit a run-scoring single in the second to put Mason on top to stay.

Eight of the Mason hits in the game came in the fifth and sixth innings when the Comets scored seven runs to break the game open. Five straight singles from Brad Hart, Alex Koelling, Jake Hanley, Drew Stevens and Mark Rutherford came in a three-run fifth and a Hanley double and Rutherford two-run single sparked a four-run sixth.

"We know our jobs," explained Rutherford, a Shelton State commit. "Once we get rolling it's hard to stop us."

Coming to the plate after four straight hits brought a smile.

"It's just confidence," Rutherford said. "Once I see barrell, barrell, barrell, I know I can do it."

Bilo had a two-hitter going into the sixth, but with one out a HBP and walk ended the day for the George Mason commit.

"I ran out of gas," admitted Bilo, who threw a no-hitter against Moeller in the regional finals.

Twinsburg did push across one run in the sixth without the benefit of a hit, but that was it against a Mason team that was confident about making a state championship a reality.

"We've talked about this goal for so long and all of a sudden it's here," Rutherford reflected. "We're so connected. We're brothers. We have a lot of good players, a lot of talent, and we kind of knew this was our year. It's awesome to be the first to do it at our school."

Bly pointed to the experience making it to state in 2022 with being beneficial.

"Some of leaders here were sophomores on that team," Bly said. "They watched us come up short and they knew because of that what to do when we got here.

"We started four sophomores on that Final 4 team at key positions.. We knew it would be tough but we believe in our guys and they believe in each other more importantly."

Bilo is thrilled to accomplish a state title with his long-time friends.

"We trust each other," Bilo noted. "We'd go through a brick wall for each other. We grew up together, 17 of us. We were in the same kindergarten class. We trust each other with our lives. We came in here confident we were going to get it done for each other and we did in the end."

Mason ends the season at 28-6 while Twinsburg, in their first appearance in a state championship game ever, closed out the year at 24-6.

PLAYER OF THE GAME: Rutherford drove in three runs with two key hits and is the choice among a large contingent of possibilties including Bilo and Jake Hanley.

D-I TOURNEY MVP: As one of the best two-way players to make it to state in some time, Hanley wins the honor. After throwing a shutout in the semifinals and driving in the only run of the game, the Indiana signee came through with two more hits in the finals while scoring two runs.

TEAM EFFORT: Seven different players had at least one hit for the Comets, with the other two adding a sacrifice bunt that led to a run and a HBP to open the four-run sixth inning. On the mound, three hurlers combined to strike out nine and give up just two hits.

WHAT’S NEXT?: What an amazing season, and tournament run, it was for Twinsburg. Four starters are back for the Tigers along with number two hurler Lucas Tinter, as well as highly-regarded junior pitcher Ownen Shinada, an Indiana commit who came on in relief against Mason after being out with an injury. A drop in divisions will increase the prospects for the Tigers in 2025. ... While this was the year for Mason, with eight senior starters in the championship game, the future is always bright for Curt Bly's Comets, which have been to state three times in the past six years.  


Mason            010   034  0  -  8  11  0
Twinsburg     000   001  0  -  1    2   1

Records: Mason 28-6, Twinsburg 24-6.

Winning Pitcher: Michael Bilo (5.1 innings, 1 run, 2 hits, 6 strikeouts, 2 walks, HBP). Others: Bryce Brannon, Ben Hanley.

Losing Pitcher: Lucas Tinter (5 innings, 4 runs, 8 hits, 4 strikeouts, 1 walk). Others: Owen Shinada, Ryan Hojdar.

Leading Hitters: (Mason) - Alex Koelling 2 singles, run, RBI; Jake Hanley single, double, 2 runs; Drew Stevens single, 2 RBIs; Mark Rutherford 2 singles, 3 RBIs; Anthony Sulek single, run; Casey Doner 2 singles, run, RBI; Brad Hart single, 2 runs; Drew Johnson run. (Twinsburg) - Jack Phillips run; Josh Stalnaker single; Aiden Taneja single.

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