June 9, 2024 at 12:56 p.m.

Dues delivers

Alex Dues only give up one run in state semifinal win against Hillsdale
Fort Recovery High School senior Alex Dues delivers a pitch during the OHSAA Division IV state semifinal game against Hillsdale on Saturday. Dues only gave up one run while leading the Indians to the state championship game for the first time since 1953. (The Commercial Review/Andrew Balko)
Fort Recovery High School senior Alex Dues delivers a pitch during the OHSAA Division IV state semifinal game against Hillsdale on Saturday. Dues only gave up one run while leading the Indians to the state championship game for the first time since 1953. (The Commercial Review/Andrew Balko)

AKRON — The Indians were amped to play in the state tournament.

After asking themselves all week why they couldn’t win it all, things started off on the right foot.

Momentarily, they got a bit ahead of themselves.

After poking a sharp ground ball down the first baseline, Troy Homan slid into second base, got up and started celebrating, not realizing that he could have made it to third base.

It didn’t happen again.

Instead, the Indians played to get all 21 outs and advance to the state championship game for the first time in 71 years.

The Fort Recovery High School baseball team got a strong performance out of Alex Dues on the mound to lead the Indians to a 3-1 victory over the Hillsdale Falcons in the OHSAA Division IV state semifinal on Saturday at Canal Park, home of the Ducks.

With the win, the Indians (16-12) advanced to play No. 1 Hiland in the state championship Sunday at 7 p.m. Hiland beat No. 4 Russia 2-0 in the second semifinal game. The last time the Indians played in the championship game was in 1953, when they lost to Beavercreek.

“Just extremely happy,” FRHS coach Kevin Eyink said. “Obviously we’re moving on and we have a chance for the championship, so we’re extremely happy.

“The guys played really well. They did everything they needed to do and here we are. We get to play one more day.”

The Indians got a tremendous effort out of Dues, their senior ace, on the mound. In 93 pitches, Dues went the distance for Fort Recovery Only allowing one run on six hits and two walks, while punching out five batters.

“I had to really mix it up,” Dues said. “My slider is a lot different than my curveball and fastball velocity wise. It’s just like from low 80s to high 50s, so you’ve got to keep them guessing.”

The Falcons (19-12) found ways to hit Dues as they had at least one hit in the first five innings, but couldn’t find a way to get those hits to turn into runs. They threatened to score in the third inning when an error by Sage Wendel at second base and a pair of hits loaded the bases, but Dues struck out a pair of batters to strand the bases loaded.

Hillsdale finally scratched one across because of mistakes Dues made. The FRHS senior issued a pair of walks to Aiden Hoffman and Byron Bickel before surrendering a two-out single to Jack Fickes to give up the run.

A ground ball to Caden Grisez ended the inning and Dues became nearly untouchable the rest of the night.

“I just knew (there was) a lot of game left and I had a lot of game in me,” he said. “I just had to keep my head up and keep going.”

Dues gave up a single to Owen Hoffman to start the fifth inning, but a pop out and two groundouts kept the Falcons quiet. He recorded his first three up, three down inning in the sixth to bring him three outs closer to the state finals.

Dues had to face the top of the order, including Fickes, who had Hilldsdale’s only RBI, and Owen Hoffman, who was 3-for-3 at that point. Dues got Fickes to fly out to center fielder Troy Homan for the first out. Both Brock Bower and Owen Hoffman sent ground balls to Wendel at second, who cleanly made the play to send the Indians to the finals.

“Sage Wendel had a mistake early,” Eyink said. “He came back and made the last two outs of the game, so just a phenomenal job by him. That’s what this team is able to do, keep playing no matter what.”

Fort Recovery got on the board as early as the second inning. Shortstop Alex Gearke led off the inning with a single up the middle that Gavin Casdorph mishandled in center field to allow Gearke to reach second base. He later reached third base on a dropped third strike before Reece Evers knocked him in with a single to the left side.

Gearke later smacked a two-out single to left field in the third. A single by Grisez moved him up to second so that Gavin Faller’s double to shallow left center field got Gaerke to the plate.

“(I was) just staying calm, collected, having a good swing, making sure to keep your head down and not letting the moment get too big for you,” Gaerke said. “That’s what we’ve been doing all tournament, jumping out on teams early, trying to get on them and just tear them down mentally too. Those early runs were big.”

Splitting the two runs scored by Gearke was Troy Homan’s run. The senior led off the third inning with a double that could have been a triple, but he slid into second base thinking that right fielder Brady Heller would cut off the ball. An error on a pick off attempt moved Troy Homan to third before Caden Homan hit a sacrifice fly for the score. 

Just as they had to get 21 outs to make it to the championship game, starting pitcher Grisez is 21 outs away from giving the Indians their first baseball state championship.

“To know that it’s going to be the last one with the friends I grew up playing with in this atmosphere tomorrow, I can’t wait,” Troy Homan said. “Like I said earlier this week, we wanna be that first Fort Recovery team to bring one home and right now we are 21 outs away.”


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