Isaiah Simerman shed his late-season slump in dramatic fashion on Friday -- and his ear-to-ear grin showcased his long-awaited relief.
The junior third baseman ripped a two-out, sixth-inning double to left-center field on Friday, breaking a 1-1 tie and sending upstart Crestview High School to an eventual 4-1 win over Russia in Division IV regional-final baseball action at Wittenberg University's Carleton Davidson Stadium.
"It felt so great," said Simerman, whose in-the-gap liner plated go-ahead run Jake Hartman, who'd walked. "I haven't been hitting very well the last few games and was coming off an 0-for-4 game (in the semifinals).
"I knew a hit was coming, and I'm glad it was this one that finally came."
Crestview (19-7) advances to the state tournament for the first time since 1993, facing Newark Catholic at 10 a.m. Friday at Huntington Park in Columbus.
"The last time we went (to state) was 20 years ago, and when we did, we brought a group of kids very similar to this group," said Knights coach Jim Wharton. "Those guys all got along, cared about each other instead of themselves -- had good pitching and hitting.
"This group's the exact same way."
Crestview took a 1-0 lead in the top of the second on an RBI single from ninth hitter Brock Rolsten, but Russia (23-8) knotted the score in the bottom of the fourth on a clutch, RBI single from pinch hitter Andrew Daniel, batting for right fielder Bryan Drees.
The game remained in a 1-1 deadlock until Simerman's sixth-inning heroics, and it was Ralston, again, whose RBI walk later in that same frame provided needed insurance at 3-1. His timely, bases loaded walk plated Venice Roberts, who'd singled.
"We knew if we were ever going to go to state again, this was going to be the team to do it with," said Simerman, who capitalized on an inside fastball. "I was just looking for that basic hit -- something to get that RBI. I didn't care where the pitch was; I just wanted to hit it."
The Knights made it 4-1 in the top of the seventh on singles by Bryce Richardson and Jordan Roop. Four of Crestview's five hits came when they mattered most -- in the final two innings.