WILCOX – Cole Peterson made the start on the mound Wednesday for Wilcox in American Legion baseball against Fox Township and stole the show with not only a complete game 5-2 win but also a perfect 4 for 4 showing at the plate.
Peterson struck out nine batters on the night while working out of trouble with runners in scoring position four times.
At the plate, Peterson delivered a 3-run triple in the bottom of the second inning to put Wilcox ahead 4-0. Center fielder Cameron Grumley worked a walk with one out and first baseman Taylor Feronti followed by legging out an infield single to put two aboard. After second baseman Frank Kocjancic was hit by a pitch to load the bases, Peterson delivered his liner to right center field to take a 4-0 lead.
Wilcox would add another run in the bottom of the fifth inning. Peterson led off the inning with a bunt single down the third base line. Jesse Reynolds worked a walk off of relief pitcher Branden Tyger, who replaced starting pitcher Brandon Schlimm after three innings.
After shortstop Mitchell Holmberg struck out looking, catcher Ben MacDonald reached on an infield single to load the bases. After third baseman Quinn Luhr went down swinging, right fielder CJ Herbstritt was hit by a pitch to bring in Peterson for a 5-0 lead. Peterson had three RBI on the day and scored twice but Wilcox left the bases loaded.
Wilcox would take an early 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning as Peterson led off the with a single against Schlimm. He would later steal second base and scored on a 2-out single from MacDonald for the game's first run.
"We've been struggling hitting lately and I'm not sure why we've been off-key a little bit," said Wilcox head baseball coach Jeff Peterson. "We've been hitting it in practice and Brandon [Schlimm] is a top notch pitcher. You have to get the timing down and if you can hit [Schlimm], you can hit anybody in the league because he can bring it.
"He's a tough pitcher but I was happy to see that we put the ball in play. We had some bunts, some small ball and I think we did alright. We're missing a couple sticks in the lineup so considering that, we're did a good job."
Peterson allowed an early walk to second baseman Luke Schreiber in the first inning but later recorded a 1-3-4 pickoff to erase him from the basepaths. A 1-out single from first baseman Justin Beimel was promptly followed by a 4-6-3 double play to end the second inning.
A leadoff double from shortstop Justin Quiggle gave Fox Township some life but Peterson again frustrated their lineup as left fielder Brian Merritt popped up to shortstop and Schlimm and right fielder Alexx Tyger both went down swinging to strand Quiggle, one of seven batters left on base for the visitors.
Fox Township second baseman Luke Schreiber connected with a leadoff single to right field to open up the fourth inning and later advanced to second base on a fielder's choice. But with one out and a man in scoring position, Peterson again regrouped to end the threat.
Peterson ran into some control issues in the top of the fifth inning as he allowed consecutive walks after striking out catcher Brandon Vollmer. The runners advanced to second and third on stolen bases before Peterson got mound opponent Schlimm to look at a called third strike. With two outs, Alexx Tyger hit a soft popup to second base to end the inning.
"Cole [Peterson] was throwing well, I know he was a bit frustrated with the strike zone at times but he kept bringing it," coach Peterson said. "That's the mental toughness that I think we have with all our pitchers, we don't get rattled and we trust our defense to make a play if [the opposing team] puts the ball on the ground. We're waiting to make a play if they hit it."
After putting up three runs in the home half of the fifth inning to take a 5-0 lead, Peterson opened the top of the sixth with a strikeout to Schreiber before hitting center fielder Chris Calliari with a pitch. With one out, Peterson came right back with a strikeout to Branden Tyger for the second out of the inning.
Beimel extended the inning with a single to center field to put two on and the runners would both advance into scoring position after a pickoff throw to second base rolled into the outfield.
Unnerved, Peterson regrouped for a strikeout to Vollmer to strand two more Fox Township baserunners.
Fox Township finally broke through in the seventh inning but it was too little too late.
Quiggle started off with a single to right field, Fox Township's third leadoff hit of the game. Merritt then put a Peterson offering over the left field fence for a 2-run home run to cut the lead to three runs. Peterson again regrouped for a 6-3 groundout to pitch hitter Lucas Lovenduski, a strikeout to pinch hitter Michael Fox, and a popup to second base to end the game.
"Fox Township is a top notch team and they don't need to see every [pitcher] that we have," coach Peterson said. "They've seen Cole [Peterson] and they won't see us again until maybe the playoffs, and maybe they'll see him for a couple of innings. Other than that, they'll see Josh [Mitchell] and the rest. He might pop in for an inning or two but we have the pitching depth.
"[Peterson] was ready to go and he wanted to throw the whole way. I didn't consider taking him out after the home run and we talked beforehand that if he got into trouble, he still wanted to try to close it because he felt good."
With the win, Wilcox improves to 11-0 on the season. They are scheduled for a 6 p.m. game Friday at Port Allegany and a 6 p.m. game Monday at Fox Township before returning home Tuesday for another matchup against Port Allegany.
With the loss, Fox Township drops to 6-4 on the year.
"After the game, we talked about the fact that both teams had six hits but obviously one of their hits was a triple with the bases loaded to clear the bases," said Fox Township head coach Kevin Petrocchi said. "We couldn't get that big hit when we had runners in scoring position, and we had runners at second and third for three or four innings but weren't able to come up with the big hit until the home run at the end of the game.
"Another hit here and there, maybe it could've been a different game. Hat's off to Wilcox though, they're a great team and they had a great pitching performance. They're a good team, fundamentally-sound and quick, and they do a nice job."