- 1 of 2 Photos | View More Photos
HUDSON -- After his team's regional final game, Tallmadge head baseball coach Kenny Linn was soaking wet and shaking with nerves.
He also could not get the smile off his face -- even after his team doused him with the water bucket.
A bunt single in the bottom of the fifth inning proved by the difference, as the Blue Devils defeated Canfield 3-2 in a Division II regional final May 27 at The Ballpark at Hudson. Tallmadge earned its first trip to the state final four since winning the Division II state title in 2002.
With the win, the Blue Devils improved to 23-7 and advanced to the Division II state semifinals June 1 at Huntington Park in Columbus.
"We felt like we had a shot at it," Linn said. "We've been in a bunch of games at this level where we felt we were the underdog."
Tallmadge advanced after it had previously gone 0-4 in regional games under Linn.
Linn and his team noted having experience at the regional level helped. Numerous members of the team's junior class -- which forms the backbone of the team -- played on the team that lost in the regional semifinals two years ago.
"They have 90 starts together as a group," Linn said. "They just love each other and they play for each other."
Josh Taylor, the team's lone senior, lauded his teammates for getting the job done.
"We had a goal," he said. "We said we're going to be the team to win this. Those kids [the juniors], have been playing together since they were six. The brotherhood they have is just overwhelming."
The Blue Devils' pitchers combined to limit the Cardinals to just three hits. Canfield head coach Matt Koenig said it was a well-played game on both sides.
"I told the boys, when a game is decided by a squeeze bunt, it's a heck of a game," Koenig said. "Each team had a lot of opportunities. We just couldn't get the timely hits when we needed them."
Tallmadge junior pitcher Jared Burick (9-1) got the win, going 5-1/3 innings, giving up two earned runs off three hits and six walks.
After getting the win in relief in the regional semifinal game, junior Mikah McGlaughlin pitched 1-1/3 innings of scoreless ball to get the save.
McGlaughlin, who came back to the Blue Devils after not playing his sophomore season, got the game ball in the post-game huddle.
Canfield struck first in the top of the first inning. After a walk and a hit batsman, Canfield pitcher Ian McGraw hit a run-scoring single to make it 1-0.
McGraw pitched well, giving up three runs (two earned) in 5-2/3 innings of work. The Blue Devils finished with seven hits.
Tallmadge took the lead in the bottom of the first inning.
With two outs, third baseman Zach Boyd walked and first baseman Scott Seeker singled. Designated hitter Josh Taylor then hit a run-scoring single to tie the game at one.
Burick then hit a liner that went for an error. Seeker made a nice slide at the plate to make it 2-1 after one inning.
Canfield would tie the game at 2-2 in the top of the second inning. Center fielder Dominic Piolli drew a bases-loaded walk to tie the contest.
Tallmadge played some small ball to get the winning run in the bottom of the fifth inning.
Shortstop Phil Glasser led off with a single, went to second on a balk and moved to third on a ground out.
With Boyd at the plate, Linn called for some strategy with Boyd.
"I told him, you get the first strike and I prefer you to hit one in the gap, but if you don't, let's go with no sign," Linn said.
After Boyd swung through strike one, that no-sign call was for a suicide squeeze bunt. Boyd put the bunt down in front of the mound and Glasser beat the throw home in front of the mound to make it 3-2.
"He didn't have the best offensive season," Linn said of Boyd. "He deserved to have the game-winning hit."
"He actually told me to hit it in the gap," Boyd said. "It's just great to be able to execute and win in that situation."
Canfield got a leadoff single from Alex Hernandez in the top of the seventh inning.
However, McGlaughlin struck out the next two batters and got Anthony Long to fly out to first base to end the game.
"I wan't him to drop it, because I wanted to strike him him out," McGlaughlin said with a smile. "I was trying to strike out everyone because I didn't want to leave anything to chance."