HOUSTON – The Bradford Baseball team for the second time this season defeated Troy Christian only this time it had more meaning. Their 11-8 win secured only the second ever District Championship for the Railroaders in baseball with the last team to do that in 2003.
Now 21-10 on the year they get to move on to play in the Regionals against Southeastern next Thursday June 1st at 2pm at Wittenberg University Carlton Davidson Stadium.
Bradford was 7-4 in the league and tied for 3rd place in the WOAC under first year coach Bill Sturwold.
Sturwold is a name most high school baseball enthusiast will recognize, a highly successful coach in the area for years, helped guide Bradford to just their 2nd district championship after defeating Triad, Covington and then shocking #1 seed Ft. Loramie 2-0 Monday night on a complete game shutout by Tucker Miller and then the 11-8 win over Troy Christian.
Miller was the WOAC Player of the Year and also the Miami Valley Coaches Association Player of the Year and Pitcher of the Year.
With Miller pitching Monday the Roaders turned to senior Landon Monnin to take the Bump.
Monnin a switch hitter provided a big blow from the left-side of the plate in the game against the Redskins. The homerun over the left field fence gave the Roaders a 1-0 lead and as it turned out the only run they needed. In that game Landon Wills also drove home a run as well.
Monnin sailed through the first 2 innings going 3-up and 3-down.
Bradford would hold a 1-0 lead heading into the top of the 3rd inning. That run was scored by Owen Canan who drew a walk, then stole 2nd base and was plated home on a double by Monnin.
But in the top half of the third Troy Christian would put up 5 big runs with a few hits but also aided by a few miscues and gaffes they didn’t make in their previous game.
Those types of innings can shake the confidence of a team and in particular a pitcher and how you respond can make all the difference.
Trailing 5-1 Bradford first year coach Bill Sturwold needed to get his team refocused.
“I had a talk with the boys about “Damage Control” that we were the home team, and capable of scoring three four runs to get back in the game so let’s not overreact. It was really important to score a couple runs after that happened.
Owen Canan started things off right with a hit in the bottom of the third and would take 2nd base on throw over to first that got away.
Once again it was Landon Monnin coming up big ripping a base hit to bring Canan home to immediately answer with a run.
Junior Garrett Trevino followed with a single moving Monnin into scoring position and junior Hudson Hill followed that up with another base hit to bring home Monnin.
Bradford narrowed the lead to 5-3 before Troy Christian could get off the field.
Bradford made a few good defensive plays in the top of the 4th inning to get out of inning 1,2,3 again on put out by 3rd baseman Dalton Skinner, a catch in center field by freshman Gage Shafer and diving catch from right fielder Landon Wills.
Landon Wills made several great catches. (Dale Barger Photo)
Shafer led off the bottom of the 4th inning with a hit and then made it to 3rd base on a hit from lead-off Tucker Miller. Wills drew a walk to load the bases with one out and Bradford was in a good position to score more runs.
One again it was Monnin delivering the blow plating Shafer. Trevino walked scoring Miller and realizing the pitcher was struggling a bit coach Sturwold wanted his guys to be patient and force him to throw strikes.“In the game of baseball when you’re down the longer you can make the game go the better things are and by working the count and extended at bats allowed us to extend deep into their staff,” Sturwold would say after the game.
The first pitching change took place after Miller scored but Bradford stayed patient with the new pitcher forcing him to also find the strike zone before swinging away and first up was junior Hudson Hill drawing the walk scoring Wills and now the Railroaders had regained the lead 6-5.
Senior Brendan Baker then had a good at bat fouling a few and running the count full before drawing a walk to plate Monnin and the inning continued with Shafer getting hit by a pitch to score Trevino that was immediately followed by Miller getting beaned to score Hill.
Bradford did what most good teams do when a team is down trying to capitalize on their mistakes and this time it was Baker going home on a pass ball beating the throw to the pitcher to go up 10-5.
But the Eagles were able to finally get out of the inning with a strikeout and put-out, but Bradford had come all the way back in just two innings and responded the way coach Sturwold hoped they would and was echoed by senior leader Landon Monnin.
“Coach told us in the third to get a couple back and keep chipping away and I think we responded well if it felt great the way we came back,” Monnin said.
“In the past, once adversity strikes sometimes we gave in … but we have matured as a team, even after the rough inning and then when we got the lead back I was stressing to the team it’s not over yet and they could still do the same thing and I wanted to make sure we stay focused,” Monnin added.
Monnin went 1,2,3 on the hill in top of the fifth inning then led off the bottom of the 5th on an all-out hustle play on a ball hit to third base beating the throw to first. He stole second base and then scored on an RBI hit by Trevino just sliding under the tag to make the score 11-5.
Neither team scored in the 6th inning sending the game to the top of the 7th with Troy Christian needing 6 runs to tie and 7 to go ahead.
The Eagles had the rally caps on and did their bets to mount a comeback and scored 3 runs and had runners on base but Bradford remained poised, didn’t panic and made the plays they could make to finally end the game to take home the District Championship.
Everyone knows about the exploits of Tucker Miller … but Landon Monnin play definitely doesn’t go unnoticed.
He went 3-4, 2 RBI’s and scored 3 runs and other than two innings of trouble threw a complete game to pick up the win for Bradford earning the praise of his coach.
“Landon Monnin is the man he’s got the grit, boy he’s the heart and soul of our team. He had bit hits and was the big key to when we answered and scored two in the bottom of third. As a senior he leads by example,” Sturwold stated.
When I asked Monnin about what coach had said about being the heart and soul he sort of blushed and tried his best to deflect.
“Well, I don’t know about all that, every one of these guys on this team contributes, so there’s no one man doing it all, I’m just trying to do my part,” Monnin said.
And that statement reflects what coach Sturwold had to say about the team.
“The efforts this year have been phenomenal with these kids. It’s been a special season for me being a first-year coach here, but this win is about the kids and Bradford community I’m just grateful they’ve given me an opportunity to coach here,” Sturwold commented.
No doubt the kids won the game but there is no denying the influence he had on the team and the success they are having this season.
A 12-12 team last year who lost to Fort Loramie not only last year but the season before as well in the post season all they did was go to Fort Loramie and take them down this year.
It was the 13th district championship for coach Sturwold to go along with regional championships and 2 state championships, ironically enough at Fort Loramie in 2007 and 2010.
After the game I spotted coach writing District Championship on a baseball then signing it and passing it around for the rest of the kids to sign. Obviously a memento to go on the mantle along with the many others he has accumulated over the years. But to my surprise that’s not what he had in mind at all.
“Having coached a number of years and possessing a number of signed baseballs on my mantle I began to think why are they on my mantle? This is something that should be shared,” he stated.
So he began a tradition that every significant baseball gets signed … and with the exception of his two-state championship balls in the trophy case the other signed baseballs became practice balls.
“Those balls represent work and accomplishments made by the team and I want everyone to see and be reminded when we are throwing or taking batting practice,” Sturwold explained.
First year coach and a district championship, only the 2nd for Bradford, they will be reminded in practice what the team accomplished what can be achieved when you put in the work, believe in each other and play for each other … and that’s how you walk the talk as a Coach, to make it about the team and the community.