WILCOX – The Wilcox American Legion baseball team advanced to the championship round of the Elk County American Legion Baseball Tournament with a 10-0, 6-inning victory over St. Marys Thursday night at Jones Township Community Park.
Wilcox used a trio of 3-run innings along with a run in the fourth to take care of St. Marys.
Fresh off a no-hitter on Monday, Cole Peterson impacted the game at the plate and on the bases as he led off the first for Wilcox with a walk and then stole second. After a lineout back to St. Marys pitcher Kevin Hoy, Hoy then struck out Mitchell Holmberg. But the third strike was dropped and the throw to first to complete the putout went well high and into right field. Peterson scored on the error and Holmberg went all the way to third as Wilcox led 1-0. St. Marys coach Fran Pasi expressed disappointment in the team's overall defense, a defense which made four errors in the game.
"You can't make that many errors against a good team like that and expect to win," Pasi said.
Holmberg scored as Josh Mitchell grounded out to short. Wilcox started a 2-out rally as Joe Holmberg singled past third and Ben MacDonald was hit by a pitch. Quinn Luhr then singled home Holmberg for Wilcox's third run of the inning.
One of St. Marys' best chances at the plate came in the second inning. Hoy led off with a walk but was erased on the basepaths as Ivan Wortman hit into a 6-4 fielder's choice. Jake Cortina singled to put two runners on for St. Marys. Mitchell would buckle down on the mound for Wilcox with a strikeout and a 6-3 groundout on the next two hitters to end the threat.
"He dropped some nice 2-strike curveballs with a full count right in there," Wilcox coach Jeff Peterson said. "That's his strong point. He dropped that curve and kept them off guard. You play at another level behind him, then he pitches at another level because he knows he's got a good defense behind him. He can relax and throw the ball. Overall, it was a nice, team effort. It takes everybody. It's just nice to get a guy like that on the mound and a defense like that behind him."
Mitchell pitched a complete game shutout for Wilcox, giving up three hits. He walked one and struck out eight in his six innings pitched.
"The pitching's our strong point," coach Peterson said. "Josh was phenomenal. He gets me worried sometimes but then he comes right back out of it. He's tough. He's as tough as they get. That's why we went to him. I even asked him when it was 7-0 if he wants to finish. He wants to finish so that's the way we ride."
Mitchell reached base in the third inning on a St. Marys error with one out. After a 5-3 groundout, MacDonald would reach on another St. Marys error, which would bring Mitchell around for Wilcox's fourth run. Luhr followed with his second single of the game. Cameron Grumley hit an RBI single to score MacDonald and Kocjancic would match Grumley's feat as he singled home Luhr for a 6-0 lead.
Mitchell started a 2-out rally by himself in the fourth as he doubled with two outs. Mitchell then had third base stolen when Hoy released the pitch to Mitchell Holmberg, a key as Holmberg singled home Mitchell easily from third for a 7-0 lead.
St. Marys had a threat going in the fourth inning as Hoy and Wortman hit back-to-back singles. Mitchell was able to get out of the jam as he was able to get a popout to MacDonald, a strikeout and a 6-3 groundout to keep the shutout intact.
"We had our chances with a couple innings with runners on and didn't capitalize," Pasi said.
Wilcox shut the door in the sixth inning with another 3-run outburst. Taylor Feronti led off with a single and Mitchell Holmberg was hit by a pitch. Mitchell singled for his third hit of the game, which loaded the bases. Kyle Sheldon singled in Feronti for an 8-0 lead and MacDonald hit a sacrifice fly to score Holmberg. Luhr then hit to shortstop but St. Marys was slow to cover second base, which meant everyone was safe and the bases were loaded once again. CJ Herbstritt ended the game by being walked with the bases loaded, which scored Mitchell to enact the 10-run rule.
"We finally got the sticks clicking here and there with a little more consistency," coach Peterson said. "It's a nice win, it's a big win, now we can set back and wait a little bit. Hopefully, we have a good game in the finals."
St. Marys went in order in the first, fifth and sixth innings. Hoy, Wortman and Jake Cortina each had hits for St. Marys. Hoy pitched four innings with three walks and a strikeout. Pasi said Hoy did a good job without much help from the defense.
"Kevin pitched good, he just didn't have the help behind him to help him," Pasi said.
St. Marys will play Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. against Fox Township at Berwind Park in the loser's bracket.
"We'll have to regroup," Pasi said. "We'll move on to Saturday and see what happens there. I'm just disappointed the way we played defensively. We'll try to shake it off and come back Saturday and play better."
Wilcox will play Monday at 5:30 p.m. against the Fox Township/St. Marys winner in the championship round. Fox Township/St. Marys will have to beat Wilcox twice to win the league title, while Wilcox only needs one more win.
Coach Peterson said he is looking to go back to a pitching rotation during the game, where each pitcher gets a turn during the game. Peterson looks at that strategy if Wilcox advances to the Region 8 tournament, where games are nine innings in regulation.
"If we get into the Region 8 (tournament), we got to work hard to win this league yet, if we get into the Region 8, we go back to our 3-3-3, where we rotate through our lineup for our pitchers," coach Peterson said. "When we play in the championship game, we're probably going to work through all of our pitchers. Cole had his turn taking it the full ride, Josh took it the full ride, now it's back to rotation time for the finals. That way one guy doesn't get too much of a look. Josh threw a great game."