WILCOX – Make it back-to-back Elk County American Legion baseball titles for Wilcox.
Wilcox won the Elk County American Legion Baseball League championship for a second straight year after an 8-1 victory over Fox Township Tuesday night at Jones Township Community Park in the championship game of the league playoffs.
"It feels good. That's a big win," Wilcox coach Jeff Peterson said. "I guess you could say we got backed in a corner. Fox is a tough team and they're a scrapping team. They showed it the other night. Brandon was a clutch pitcher for them the other night but I think everything worked in our favor."
The win moves Wilcox into the Region 8 tournament where Wilcox will open against French Creek Valley (25-1) at 10 a.m. Saturday morning at Berwind Park in St. Marys. Starting with the Region 8 tournament, a regulation game will be nine innings long with the 10-run rule applying after the seventh inning.
"I think our first game in regionals last year we were a little nervous. We played a real good team up front and we didn't play good at all," coach Peterson said. "We play another tough team to start this time, they're the No. 1 seed out of Erie. We'll give them all we got. It's double elimination and you do what you can do. We're going to battle. We don't quit."
Wilcox scored in consistent bunches Tuesday, tallying a pair of runs in four separate innings, the first, second, fourth and fifth frames.
Cole Peterson led off the game with an infield single to third base. Jesse Reynolds then hit a shot to second base which would be bobbled. Reynolds would reach first on the low throw while Peterson hustled to third. Mitchell Holmberg then hit into a fielder's choice which would score Peterson for the game's first run. Cleanup hitter Josh Mitchell launched a long double to center field which would score Holmberg for a 2-0 Wilcox lead.
Much like Fox Township in Game 1 of the championship round, Wilcox would double its lead in the following inning with a 2-run second. Joe Holmberg led off the inning with a walk and Quinn Luhr moved him to second on a fielder's choice. Frank Kocjancic and Peterson walked to load the bases and Reynolds would come through with a 2-run single just over the shortstop's head which would score Joe Holmberg and Kocjancic for a 4-0 lead.
"Jesse Reynolds swung a nice bat and got us back in there," coach Peterson said. "The kids took some batting practice, took it serious. They took that loss as a little slap in the face. They rose to the challenge and picked it up. We'll see if we can take it another notch."
Kocjancic started the rally in the fourth with a walk. Peterson singled while Kocjancic moved to third on the play. Peterson then attempted to steal second and was successful as the throw to second base was high and went into center field, scoring Kocjancic for a 5-0 Wilcox advantage. After a flyout, Mitchell Holmberg singled home Peterson for a 6-0 lead.
Joe Holmberg led off the fifth inning with another walk for Wilcox. A Luhr sacrifice bunt moved Holmberg to second and Cameron Grumley was then hit by an off-speed pitch. Kocjancic singled home Holmberg for a 7-0 lead and moved Grumley to third. Peterson grounded into a fielder's choice to second which would bring Grumley across the plate for an 8-0 lead.
Fox Township's lone run came in the seventh inning. Brandon Vollmer reached on a 1-out walk and then took second on a wild pitch. Brandon Schlimm would single home Vollmer to prevent the shutout.
Luke Schreiber had two of Fox Township's three hits on the night, including a double. Schreiber had an infield single in the first inning as he hit a ball in between first base and the mound for his other hit.
Fox Township left a pair of runners on base in both the fifth and sixth innings. In the fifth, Brian Merritt and Vollmer reached on consecutive walks but Peterson was able to strike out the next two hitters to end the inning and end his night on the mound. Schreiber's infield hit was the only hit Fox Township was able to garner off of Peterson as Peterson tossed five scoreless innings with three walks and eight strikeouts.
Schreiber doubled with one out in the sixth and Justin Quiggle followed with a walk. But two straight flyouts ended the innings although Brandon Tyger's flyout came just a few feet shy of a home run down the left field line.
Mitchell came in to close the deal with two innings pitched, two hits, one run, three walks and two strikeouts.
"We saved Cole and Josh, we kept them ready to go," coach Peterson said. "Cole threw great then Josh threw great. We had two top guns come in and they pulled us through and put us where we need to be. They did a great job and I'm glad for both of them."
Coach Peterson said he was happy with the consistency shown at the plate by scoring in four of six innings.
"We get a few days off, get everybody recuperated a little bit," coach Peterson said. "We hit the ball, we put the ball in play. You put the ball in play, good things are going to happen and we put the ball in play.
"That's what I wanted to see, consistency, where we work for a run every inning," coach Peterson said. "You got to work for a run."
Wilcox also won a winner-take-all game in last year's playoffs, a 7-0 win over St. Marys at Berwind Park to win the league title and advance to last season's Region 8 tournament.
"I couldn't ask for a better group of kids and they earned it, they deserved it and I'm glad they got it," coach Peterson said.