AKRON — The Ontario baseball team took its fans on a magic carpet ride that came as close as possible to a dream come true.

Alas one run was the difference as the Warriors dropped a 4-3 heartbreaker to Kenston Saturday night in the Division II state championship game at Akron’s Canal Park.

“I told the kids just now, ‘You became the team I knew you could be,’ ” head coach Mike Ellis said. “This was remarkable. What a ride we had.”

Playing before a strong crowd in a Class AA minor league baseball stadium simply enhanced the odyssey that was Ontario’s stunning tournament run.

The Warriors began the year 3-9, and lost four of their last five regular-season games. Despite all that, they were very nearly unbeatable in the tournament. Indeed, it took a state champion to stop them, by a single run.

“I knew it was probably going to be a close game,” Ellis said. “We had some opportunities, but they were just the better team today.”

The Warriors (17-15) began with a purpose. Senior Colton Ramion opened the contest with a single, was sacrificed to second and advanced on a pass ball before scoring on Gage Weaver’s sacrifice fly to give Ontario a 1-0 lead in the first inning.

Kenston responded with the key inning of the game in the bottom of the second.

The Bombers (21-11) didn’t hit the ball hard, and in some cases didn’t hit it at all, but strung together three runs in a bizarre frame. Two hits, two walks, two balks and two bunts were enough to push across three runs for a 3-1 edge.

It was really the only chink in an otherwise fine performance from Ontario righty Peyton Dzugan. The diminutive junior allowed six hits and three walks, but scrambled all day. It was those balks that visibly bothered him though. Both of them took place in a span of three pitches, moving runners into scoring position — each of which scored.

“The first one they said was a double move, and the second one they said he turned his shoulder,” Ellis said. “Who knows? You get to this level, this kind of pressure, but we were able to stay in it.

“Peyton is a bulldog. He hung in there.”

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Dzugan said he didn’t understand either balk call, but that shouldn’t detract from the experience his team relished.

“Pitching here is 100 percent a dream come true,” Dzugan said. “The camaraderie we had, the ups, the downs, the hate, the love. I’m going to remember all of this.”

Kenston added what would be the winning run in the bottom of the fifth when L.A. Mighton tripled and scored on a fielder’s choice. That made it 4-1. The Bombers wouldn’t score again, but wouldn’t need to.

“That extra run there, that was big,” Ellis said.

The Warriors rallied in the top of the sixth to plate two runs. Jayden Leach led off with a single, and Gage Weaver was hit by a pitch. Carter Weaver poked a grounder to the left side of the infield for a fielder’s choice. All hands were safe when a tag was missed and suddenly the bases were loaded.

Cater Walters ripped a two-run single to make it 4-3. But Kenston pitcher Nikko Georgiou battled back. He induced Jake Chapman to fly out and then fanned the next two hitters to avoid further damage.

“We were swinging at those high fastballs early, and he took advantage of it,” Ellis said.

Georgiou registered seven strikeouts against one walk in the complete-game decision.

Ontario left fielder Caden Boebel made a fine running catch to finish the bottom of the sixth inning, and the Warriors came to bat with one last chance. Dzugan led off with a single, his second hit of the game. He moved to second on a bunt, but Leach lined into a double play to second to end the game.

“Our crowd was great,” Duzgan said. “I think they had more people here, but our crowd was just as loud if not louder.”

Senior Gage Weaver was emotional after the final out, which finished his high school career.

“This march was so much fun, I’ll never forget it,” he said.

Local sports are brought to you by Conway's Pharmacy in Mount Vernon and Danville.

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