SANDUSKY – Danbury coach Adam Steinbrick called freshman Justin Tibbels on Tuesday night to simply remind him to throw strikes the next day.
Steinbrick had already informed Tibbels that he’d be starting on the mound for the first time after pitching in relief. Tibbels struck out three and walked four while allowing two hits and one run in four innings as the Lakers defeated St. Mary Central Catholic 4-2 at Dorn Community Park for a Division IV sectional championship.
“He gave me the start so I had to go out and throw strikes,” Tibbels said. “That would get us rolling. It’s awesome to have that feeling (winning a sectional title). I wanted it for (the seniors) as much as I wanted it for me.
“It was an honor to start the final. As a freshman, you don’t think you’ll be put in a spot like that and they’ll have the trust in you.”
Danbury (10-12) plays Toledo Christian in the district semifinals at 5 p.m. Wednesday at Clyde. Toledo Christian beat the Lakers twice during the regular season.
Tibbels retired the first six batters he faced before stranding runners in scoring position in the third and fourth innings. He induced a flyout and notched a strikeout with the bases loaded in the third and struck out a batter with runners on first and third for the final out in the bottom of the fourth.
Austin Buchanan took home as part of a double steal in the first inning before Logan Kenley and Ryan Chapman scored in the second. Mike Stys had an RBI groundout in the second and scored in the fifth.
“It just helps me stay calm,” Tibbels said of an early advantage. “I have runs to work with. Everything doesn’t have to be perfect.”
Tibbels typically works fast from pitch to pitch.
“I try to keep it up tempo to get a rhythm,” he said. “Once I start throwing strikes I feel good about it and try to keep going.”
Danbury shortstop Chase Botson snared a liner off his shoetops for the first out in the sixth. He charged a topspin floater and narrowly threw out a runner for the final out with runners on second and third.
“You can always count on him,” Tibbels said. “He’s a good fielder. It’s a good feeling knowing he’s backing you up. He’ll make plays.”
Ben Schank relieved Tibbels and allowed one run in three innings. He struck out one and hit a batter while giving up four hits.
The Lakers last won a sectional crown in 2011.
“The senior group won two games two years ago,” Steinbrick said. “They stuck with the game. If you stick with something you love and work and want it, good things can happen. (Wednesday) they got that.
“Our mental focus was great going in. You set the stage in warmups. We continued to focus and battle. Our guys made some plays.”