Skip to main content

Archbishop Hoban wins another close game 4-3 over Hamilton Badin, will get shot to defend OHSAA baseball Division 2 state title

Caleb Kepler shuts the door to send Knights to second straight Division II title game.
Archbishop Hoban baseball Caleb Kepler Ryan Isley

AKRON, Ohio – Archbishop Hoban pitcher Caleb Kepler put on a WWE championship belt and smiled. The defending OHSAA baseball Division II state champs will get a chance to defend that title on Saturday after defeating Hamilton Badin 4-3 in the semifinals on Friday.

Kepler played a huge part in getting Hoban back to the championship game, as he entered the game from the bullpen with a runner on base and two outs in the top of the fifth inning with the Knights leading 4-2.

After giving up a walk and a run-scoring single, he settled in and got the next hitter to end the inning and preserve the lead. The senior was dealing with some nerves when realizing this might be the last time he would ever take the mound for the Knights.

“I would be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous,” Kepler said. “Emotions kind of took over at the beginning there. I walked a kid and let that get in my head.”

He then retired six of the seven hitters he faced in the final two innings to finish the game and earn his first save of the year in his first appearance in relief.

“I took a couple of deep breaths and settled down a little bit,” Kepler said. “I got out of that first inning and then I was fine.”

The Knights took the lead in the bottom of the third inning after Badin had jumped out to a 2-1 lead after one.

Michael Ciavolella walked and Zack Zimmerman and Nolan Holmgren both got one-out singles for Hoban to load the bases. After Badin got the second out, Nate Shimmel drew a walk to force in the tying run.

And then Parker Falkenstein got the hit that ended up sending Hoban back to the state championship game when he laced the first pitch he saw from Badin pitcher Nik Copenhaver to left center to score two runs and give the Knights a 4-2 lead.

“At that point I was just sitting fastball,” Falkenstein said. “I wasn’t really nervous, I was just sitting back and relaxed. I was just trying to jump on that first pitch.”

Noah LaFine started the game for Hoban and went 4.2 innings before giving way to Kepler in the fifth. He gave up three runs (two earned) on four hits and four walks. He struck out six.

This kind of game was nothing new for Hoban, which has made a habit of playing close games to the end this season. But that’s how the defending champions like it.

“We have had plenty of close games before,” Falkenstein said. “Our play style is to just play loose and have fun.”