Baird Brothers roll undefeated to NABF title
By JOHN BASSETTI
Baird Brothers completed its steamrolling through the NABF Senior Division (18-U) World Series when it throttled College Connect of Michigan, 8-2, at Cene Park.
Matt Gibson went 3-for-4 in the championship game Sunday afternoon following a two-hit effort in Baird’s 8-0 semifinal win over Lincoln Park (Mich.) Rails earlier in the day. Gibson was named tourney MVP.
Baird, a Class B League champion the last three seasons, finished 7-0 in the NABF WS by allowing only six runs. Its victories included four shutouts.
Defending 18-U champion Jackson 96ers (Mississippi) were eliminated on Saturday.
Baird manager Don Pletcher also won an NABF 18-U crown with Ohio Glaciers in 2014.
“It gets sweeter,” Pletcher said of his second and 18-U achievement. “It was a pleasure handing them a gold medal.”
Andrew Russell pitched six strong innings, but Pletcher decided to replace him with Marco DeFalco in the bottom of the seventh.
“As much as he wanted to finish it, I knew he was a little tired and I knew Marco [DeFalco] could come in and shut the door. Why mess around? Let’s get it closed up.”
Pletcher said that jumping out to an early 1-0 lead was crucial. “I was pleased with our hitting and defense and we kept the hammer down [offensively].”
As a sophomore for Champion High, Russell pitched a state championship game in 2017.
“I’d say it was a pretty good accomplishment; it’s unusual,” Russell said.
Russell felt that his fastball was his most effective pitch against College Connect, but he also gave credit to Baird’s defense and the pitch-calling behind the plate.
“Those were the ingredients that really worked,” Russell said..
Coleman Stauffer, who turned 19 on June 21, played at Boardman High and is coming off of his freshman season at Mount Union. He said that keeping Connect batters guessing with Russell’s mix of fastball, changeup, curvebll and knuckleball was key. Stauffer also has an NABF 14-U World Series championship to his credit as a member of Creekside (played in Tennessee).
Stauffer’s arm played a role in nipping College Connect in the bud in the bottom of the fourth when Stauffer’s bullet to shortstop Josh Hoffman at second base nabbed Drew Henig on a steal attempt.
In the top of the second, Dayln Brickner beat out the throw from shortstop, which allowed Braeden O’Shaughnessy to scored Baird’s second run. Dylan Swarmer and Brickner came home on Gibson’s triple and a wild pitch by Chris Faust brought Gibson home for a 5-0 advantage.
Also in the title game, Brickner, Hoffman and Steve D’Eusanio all had two hits, while Connect’s Mason Minzey had three hits, including a double.
To advance to the championship game, Baird beat Lincoln Park Rails of Michigan, 8-0, with a 10-strikeout performance by right-hander Marshall McGraw.
McGraw, out of Pittsburgh Central Catholic, is headed to Seton Hill U. in Greensburg, Pa.
Pletcher said that his team didn’t do too well in 2017.
The Rails-Baird game was errorless.