CARROLLTON -- Sometimes it only takes one bounce of a ball to change the course of a game.
Unfortunately for the Sandy Valley baseball team, one bad bounce in the bottom of the second inning gave Richmond Edison all the help it would need as the No. 1-seeded Wildcats downed the Cardinals 6-0 in a Division III district semifinal game at Carrollton High School.
With an Edison runner on third base and two outs, Dominic Rogers hit a soft pop up foul down the first base line. It looked as though the Cardinals were going to make the catch and end the inning with no damage done. The sun had other ideas. The glare caused the ball to be misplayed, fall to the ground and the at-bat continued.
It didn't take long for the Wildcats to take advantage. Rogers smashed an RBI single on the next pitch. Rogers alertly stole second base and then advanced to third on a passed ball. That set the table for catcher Dalton Cresap to drive Rogers with an RBI single and give Edison all the runs it would ultimately need.
"They are a really good team," Edison head coach Tom Bocek said. "They battled us really hard. It's just one of those things. The ball doesn't bounce your way sometimes. Fortunately for us, it bounced our way."
Fielding issues again hurt Sandy Valley in the third inning. Joe Nave reached first base on a walk and stole second. Nave went to third on a single by Larry Bielawski and scored on a throwing error. Bielawski advanced to second on the error and took third on a passed ball. Pitcher Tristan Haught stepped to the plate and reached on an error after the throw to first sailed over the first baseman's head, allowing Bielawski to score from third.
"We didn't play perfect ball today," Sandy Valley head coach Brian Gamble said. "We battled like we have all year but we just couldn't overcome those early miscues."
The errors spoiled an otherwise excellent outing by Cardinal senior Nelson Mozden. Mozden scattered seven hits and pitched a complete game. Moden also had two hits for a Sandy Valley offense that was held to just five by Richmond starter Tristan Haught.
Mozden also displayed his toughness by staying in the game after turning his ankle attempting to cover home plate in the third inning.
Mozden never displayed his frustration as four fielding errors and two passed balls put Sandy Valley behind from the start.
"He showed his heart by staying out there," Gamble said. "He was hurting but he wouldn't let us take the ball. He also had a good day at the plate."
Richmond ended all doubt about the outcome in the sixth inning. Nave reached on an error, stole second and then went to third on a passed ball. He scored on yet another RBI single by Rodgers. Cresap drove in Rodgers to put the game out of reach.
"We played well," Bocek said. "We had solid pitching, great defense and timely hitting. That's a recipe for success in the playoffs."
Sandy Valley managed only two hits off Haught through the first five innings. The Cardinals finished with five singles but did not advance a base runner past second base. Haught struck out out four, hit two batters and walked one en route to the complete game shutout.
The loss ends a memorable season for Sandy Valley. The Cardinals won 18 games thanks to a talented senior class.
"These guys were all great," Gamble said. "Nelson, Michael Roberts, Paul Roberts, Xavier Sarver and Bryce Offenberger were all tremendous. They were grinders and they did a lot of great things for us."
That included Michael Roberts, an All-Ohio selection who set the school record by hitting .523 for the season. It was a loss with several 'what if' scenarios for Sandy Valley.
"I think it's going to be a huge motivator," Gamble said. "We have a lot of talented freshman. Our eighth grade class also did really well this year. I think the future is bright for Sandy Valley."