Pemberville defends district, heads to state

J. Patrick Eaken

Don “Chopper” Schmeltz first started coaching the Pemberville American Legion Freedom Post 183 baseball team in 1983.
        Thirty-six years later, his health is not the best, but he’s still at it. Even though his mobility is limited, he still makes out the lineup and can then be heard from the dugout urging on his players.
        Now, Pemberville is back to doing what it has done for so many years during his four decades coaching.
        Pemberville advanced to the state legion tournament in Athens, Ohio every season between 1992 and 1998, excluding 1993. They’ve been no stranger to the state tournament since. This year, for the second straight season, they are heading back to the 93rd Annual State Tournament at Beavers Field in Lancaster.
        “We’re getting help from everybody this season — that’s the thing,” Pemberville assistant coach Dave Russell said. “It seems like everybody has a role and everybody has been doing what they are supposed to do. Pitchers have been pitching well and the hitters are obviously hitting well.
        “Everybody is excited to be going back. It’s a good group of guys. A lot of them were down there last year and we have a bunch of them back. So the new guys are kind of hearing about it and they are excited about it.”
        Helping Schmeltz is Russell, Sam Witt, and Guy Elston. Witt is a Genoa parent and coach, Russell was the longtime Northwood High School baseball coach and Elston is a former professional baseball player in the New York Yankees organization who now lives in Stony Ridge.
        Elston brings his experience pitching in the International League for the Triple A Columbus Clippers to the table.
        “He’s one of the best around, I’ll give him that much,” Russell said. “The kids all love him and he works for the pitchers. He has a lot of experience and they know that. So what he says they usually take it to heart. They come from their high school programs so obviously he is not going to change a lot, but a little tweak here and there can get them to do what you want them to do, and Guy is good at that.”
        The 19-and-under team, like usual, is a local who’s who of high school baseball players, including five from Genoa, three from Lake, and two each from Woodmore and Eastwood, and also has talent coming from New Riegel, Lakota, Maumee, Anthony Wayne and Central Catholic. Two are collegiate players — one from Bowling Green State University and the other from Tiffin University.
        Pemberville is 40-11 and will face off against Meigs Post 39 on Wednesday at 10 a.m. in the tournament opener of the eight-team double elimination bracket. Circleville Post 134 defeated Beverly/Lowell Post 389-750 4-2 in last year’s final and both are back.
        This year, Pemberville had to overcome the odds, facing excessive heat and coming out of the loser’s bracket to win Northwest Ohio’s District 1 tournament, hosted by Pemberville and Ottawa.
        “The heat was ridiculous all weekend, and Sunday playing a doubleheader at 1 and 4,” Russell said.
        Pemberville defeated Napoleon, 5-3, but lost to Findlay 5-4 after taking a 4-0 lead, sending Post 183 to the loser’s bracket. There, they did what they had to — won three straight, defeating Napoleon 11-6 and then downing the winner’s bracket champion, Findlay, twice, 10-0 and 8-3.
        Pemberville had to overcome Napoleon River Bandits pitcher Landon Willeman, a BGSU commit from Napoleon High School.
        “He’s a low to mid-90s guy. He’s a good one. We excel against good pitching,” Russell said. “They all responded and we couldn’t be happier. Those two wins on Sunday propelled us to Monday and it was just momentum after that, I think.
        “It was tough, especially having Napoleon first and seeing their ace. I think he got a no decision, but to hit him around like we did and bounce back from there and see one of Findlay’s best pitchers — we saw their No. 1 and beat the No. 2,” Russell continued.
        “Knocking Napoleon out is amazing. They are one of the top teams around, and to beat them twice is saying a lot and (coach Dana (Dunbar) down at Findlay does a lot with those guys down there. He has a pretty veteran team so beating them like we did was big, too.
        “We lost to them on Saturday — it was one of those freak games where things just didn’t go our way and everything went their way, and it was like OK. We could have just folded up and went home after that and we didn’t. I was really happy with how the kids responded coming back from that. That was a tough pill to swallow being up 4-0.”
        Pemberville’s aces on the mound, according to Russell, have been 6-1, 18-5 pound right-hander Jacob Boelkens, a Lake senior in 2019, and 5-10, 180 pound right-hander Justin Pickerel, who will be an upcoming senior at Eastwood. It was Post 183’s hitting that made the biggest difference at the district.
        “We just hit the heck out of the baseball this weekend. That was one of the things that came together. We saw good pitching and we do really well against good pitching,” Russell said.
        How well can Pemberville hit? As a team, they have hit 19 home runs this season, including six by team-leader Luke Walsh (Lake), a 6-foot-2, 200-pound outfielder who graduated last spring. Walsh also leads the team in hitting at .463.
        Other home run hitters are right side infielder Zack Marvin (Maumee, 3 HR, .345), outfielder Scott Mackiewicz (Lake, 2 HR, .373), left side infielder Cole Noftz (New Riegel, 2 HR, .384), first baseman/pitcher Sam Witt (Genoa, 2 HR, .437), utility player/pitcher Justin Pickerel (Eastwood, 1 HR, .333), catcher/right fielder Tyler “Tony” Haas (Eastwood/BGSU, 1 HR, .402), catcher/right fielder Dawson Delventhal (Lake, 1 HR, .224) and right side infielder Dennis “D.J.” Melter (Woodmore, 1 HR, .258).
        Other top hitters are right side infielder Josh Vischer (Genoa), who is batting .303 and outfielder Hogan Heck (AW, .487), who Russell says is a “burner” because of his speed on the base paths and in the outfield.
        Other local players contributing are pitcher/left fielder George Brzeczek (Woodmore), outfielder Rylen Stoner (Genoa), outfielder Reid Stoner (Genoa), pitcher/first baseman Tyler Wehrle (Genoa), pitcher/second baseman Cole Millhime (Genoa), and pitcher/first baseman Antonia Rodriguez (Central).


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