MANSFIELD — They are two of the most successful small-school programs in north central Ohio and they are the last two baseball teams standing.
Plymouth and Hillsdale both won Division IV district championships last week and will be in action in this week’s regional tournaments.
The second-seeded Big Red (19-7) beat Firelands Conference rival and No. 1 seed South Central 6-5 to win the Galion district title Saturday. The teams had split two regular meetings and the Trojans looked like they would win the rubber match, opening a 5-2 lead in the sixth.
Plymouth scored four runs in the sixth, however, to snatch a victory from the jaws of defeat. Cole Wentz belted a two-run home run and Zeth Goth broke a 5-5 tie with a run-scoring single.
The top-seeded Falcons (24-4) held off No. 2 Columbia 4-2 in the Medina district championship game last week. A day earlier, Hillsdale held on for a 4-3 win over No. 3 Mogadore in the district semifinals.
In the district final, Hillsdale fell behind 2-1 but tied it with a run in the third than scored a pair of runs in the home half of the fourth on a Columbia error. Junior pitcher and outfielder Nick Kandel scored five of Hillsdale’s eight runs in two district wins and picked up the mound victory in the semifinal game against Mogadore, striking out four in the complete game five-hitter.
Plymouth will play Antwerp in the regional semifinals at 2 p.m. Thursday at Patrick Henry High School. Antwerp won the Bryan district championship with a 6-2 win over Wayne Trace.
Hillsdale will take on Warren JFK at 5 p.m. Thursday at Gilmour Academy in Gates Mills. JFK advanced with a 5-4 win over Lake Center Christian in the Struthers district championship game.
Playing in the Sweet 16 is nothing new for the Big Red or the Falcons. Plymouth was the regional runner-up in 2018. The following year, Hillsdale won a regional championship and reached the Division IV state championship game before falling 3-1 to Toronto in the final at Canal Park in Akron.