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'An incredible feeling': Moeller baseball team advances to Saturday's Division I state final

Crusaders going for their ninth state title in program history
Posted at 3:35 PM, Jun 08, 2023

AKRON, Ohio — Moeller senior third baseman Connor Christenson watched the final out and jubilantly pumped his right fist in celebration with his teammates on the Canal Park field late Thursday morning.

The Crusaders defeated Walsh Jesuit 2-0 in a Division I state semifinal to advance to Saturday's state final. Moeller (30-3) plays Olentangy Orange (23-10) in the state final at 10 a.m. Saturday at Canal Park.

The irony of the moment wasn't lost on the No. 1 state-ranked Crusaders (30-3), winners of 16 consecutive games.

Senior shortstop Charlie Niehaus stepped on second base unassisted to record the final out after the go-ahead run was the plate. As a batter, Niehaus made the final out of the 2022 regional final loss and he wanted an opportunity at redemption this spring.

"Just an incredible feeling," Moeller coach Tim Held said. "The way these guys have battled. And the big loss in the regional finals when they were feeling really good last year and just got beat. To come back and for everybody talk about us about being No. 1 and all the talent we have and form them to deal with that every step of the way and get yelled at by a hundred (Walsh Jesuit) students over there. They just weather the storm and they come out and make plays when they need to. It's just so fun to watch."

Held predicted Thursday's state semifinal would be close and it was certainly that with several players committed to college programs on both teams.

The game remained scoreless until the bottom of the fourth inning. That's when Moeller senior Nathan Manley led off with a triple and later scored on senior Clay Burdette's RBI single.

Moeller senior pitcher Toby Hueber worked out of trouble in the fifth after runners were at first and third with two out. His strikeout of Joey Canzoni left two Walsh Jesuit runners on base.

Moeller went ahead 2-0 in the bottom of the fifth when Hueber's sacrifice fly scored senior Ethan Sweat.

Hueber, a Division I first-team all-state selection, allowed just three hits and struck out five in five innings on the mound.

"It feels fantastic," Hueber said. "Just being able to help my team win was the whole goal — just keep us in the game, make sure we win the game. That's what we've had our whole goal all year to win state."

Hueber improved to 10-0 this season and just set the Moeller career wins record (25).

"He's probably logged 160ish innings," Held said. "What he does when gets on the mound — I don't think he's even going to pitch in college at George Mason — but he's such a bulldog. He has such confidence in his pitches. The kids playing behind him have such confidence. We know he is going to battle."

Senior Carson Marsh pitched two innings of relief for Moeller and picked up his fourth save of the season.

Moeller, ranked No. 18 nationally by MaxPreps, is in its first state baseball final since 2015 when the Crusaders won their eighth championship.

Moeller has also won state titles in 2013, 2012, 2009, 2004, 1993, 1989 and 1972.

The Crusaders were greeted warmly by plenty of fans at Canal Park Thursday including former head football coach Gerry Faust, an Akron-area resident. Faust spoke with the team on the concourse level.

"They know the Moeller tradition," Held said. "They know we have eight state titles. They know we have all the football titles and national championships. They want to be a piece of that. And they want their names to be etched with all those other greats."

A ninth state baseball title in program would tie Moeller for second in state history with Newark Catholic. Elder has a state-record 12 titles.

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