AKRON, Ohio — The Elder High School baseball team will play for a state championship Sunday night.
The Panthers defeated Toledo St. John's Jesuit 4-1 Saturday afternoon in a Division I state semifinal at Canal Park in Akron.
"I don't think there will be too much sleeping going on tonight," Elder coach Mark Thompson said. "But, we got plenty of time to sleep after tomorrow. We got one more to go."
The Panthers rallied from a 1-0 deficit in the fifth inning to reach the state final. Elder scored two runs in the fifth and sixth innings as the bats came alive late in the game.
Elder (25-8) will play New Albany or Walsh Jesuit in the Division I state final at 7 p.m. Sunday.
"This is going to be unbelievable," Thompson said. "This is why you do it. This is the ultimate right here. We're going to be jacked up, ready to go. I hope people of Cincinnati make it up tomorrow night to support us."
Pitching was the story line early in Saturday's state semifinal with Elder and Toledo St.John's Jesuit. St. John's Jesuit scored a run in the fourth inning to take a 1-0 lead.
However, Elder tied the game in the fifth, thanks to senior Marco Sabato's two-out RBI single to left field. Senior Jackson Gutzwiller scored the tying run.
Then, sophomore Luke Vaughn lined the first pitch to left for an RBI single that scored Sabato to make it 2-1. Vaughn was 2-for-4 for the game with the RBI.
"Pitching and defense have to be constants and timely hitting," Thompson said. "And this was perfect. It was the epitome of it today."
Elder added two more runs in the sixth. Senior Zak Schlachter had an RBI single to right that scored junior Conner Owens.
Junior Jeremy Ward singled to right to score junior Jack Lambert to make it a 4-1 Elder lead.
Senior Jackson Grimmelsman pitched six solid innings, allowing just one run on four hits. He struck out four. He was 2-for-4 at the plate.
"He's been our hammer," Thompson said. "Just our rock all year on the mound. Another great performance today."
Grimmelsman smiled when asked about Sunday night.
"It's a once-in-a-lifetime moment getting to the state championship," he said.
Elder is making its 21st appearance in the state baseball tournament.
Elder is in the state final for the first time since 2010, when it was the state runner-up. The Panthers won the 2005 Division I state title - one of 12 state baseball titles.
Greater Cincinnati has two opportunities at state baseball titles Sunday in Akron.
Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy (22-8) plays Archbold (23-11) in the Division III state final at 10 a.m. Sunday.
The Eagles are in the state final for the first time since 2014. CHCA is seeking its first state baseball title.
WCPO sports anchor Caleb Noe contributed to this report.