By BRIAN RICHESSON
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
COLUMBUS -- The Boardman High baseball team left unfinished business at the Division I state tournament. It can only hope another opportunity is waiting.
A decade had passed since the Spartans last reached the state level. That's why Thursday's 9-5 loss to Maumee in the state semifinal at Cooper Stadium was hard for them to take.
"They should be right back here next year," Boardman senior second baseman Kevin Gesacion said of his teammates, "to send these guys [Maumee] home packing, instead of us."
Had opportunities: Boardman (24-6) loaded the bases in the final three innings against Maumee pitcher Ed Garcia (9-2), who earned the complete-game victory despite walking seven batters and hitting two more.
But the Spartans stranded 12 runners, preventing them from playing in the title game Saturday against Dublin Coffman, which defeated Hamilton 6-5 in eight innings in the other semifinal.
"It's 6-4 and we've got our three-and-four hitter[s] up with the bases loaded," Boardman coach Scott Knox said of the sixth inning. "If we get a base hit out of either one of those guys, we have a tie game.
"We put ourselves in a situation where we're one swing away and we've got a brand new game," he said. "We had our chances, but we let it slip away."
It took one bad inning for the momentum to shift in Maumee's favor. That was the fourth, when Spartans junior pitcher Matt Repec, unbeaten coming into the game, allowed five runs on five hits, resulting in Maumee's 5-1 lead.
The Spartans scored their first run on junior shortstop Mike Krieger's RBI single.
"The walks were very uncharacteristic of Matt," Knox said of his ace, who walked two batters with the bases loaded in the fourth inning. Repec (10-1) walked five overall and hit a batter.
"Matt's been very efficient all year long," Knox said. "I don't want to make excuses, but he's had a very sore ankle. In fact, we were debating on whether to start him today. We felt he was the guy we went to all year and we're surely not going to change anything.
"He still had good enough stuff to win today," Knox said. "It's just that the walks got him in trouble in that one inning."
Repec didn't blame his sore ankle.
"I couldn't get in the strike zone. I really didn't have it that inning," said Repec, who was relieved by senior Dennis Golubic in the fifth. "I was able to work out of it, but after five runs it doesn't help too much."
First final appearance: Maumee coach Dave DuGai, whose team (21-10) is making its first trip beyond the district, said, "Boardman is an outstanding offensive team. When we got those five runs, we were just hoping that would be enough."
Maumee increased the lead to 6-1 before the Spartans cut their deficit in half on junior right fielder Sean Curry's two-run single in the fifth.
Gaining confidence from an offense that produced 45 runs in five tournament games before Thursday, Boardman scored a sixth-inning run on Krieger's bloop single that dropped between two Maumee players.
But Boardman managed one more run -- sophomore pinch-hitter Tom Zetts scored on senior catcher Tony Dellapena's ground ball in the seventh.
"If we play this team 100 times, we're going to beat them 99," said Gesacion, who will continue his baseball career at Miami University. "This was one day they beat us."
Maumee seemed to have secured the victory in the top of the seventh on a three-run, inside-the-park home run by senior second baseman Kevin Smigielski.
"The guys did a great job of staying with them and fighting," Knox said of his team, "but today just wasn't supposed to be."