ST. MARYS – It was a grand way for Josh Mitchell and the Wilcox American Legion baseball team to open the Region 8 tournament.
Mitchell hit a third-inning grand slam and drove in six total runs as Wilcox won 11-3 over French Creek Valley in the tournament opener Saturday morning at Berwind Park in St. Marys.
"That was big, that took the air out of them and lifted us up," Wilcox coach Jeff Peterson said. "Everybody started hitting after that. That was an eye-opener. They had no room for Josh, they had nowhere to put him. They couldn't work around him and he cashed in. That was a bigtime hit, we'll take it."
French Creek Valley took the lead with a third-inning run before Wilcox added five runs in the bottom of the inning. Frank Kocjancic singled up the middle to open the inning and Cole Peterson would reach on a bunt single hit slowly down the third base line. Jesse Reynolds would do the same thing to load the bases.
"I think we got them flustered with the small ball," coach Peterson said. "We'll take it any way we can get it. This is a big win."
Mitchell Holmberg hit into a fielder's choice. The ball was dropped by the French Creek Valley catcher on the throw to try and get the forceout, allowing Kocjancic to score from third and keep the bases loaded.
The bases were then emptied on one Mitchell swing as he launched a home run to left center field, pushing Wilcox ahead 5-1 after the third inning.
Reynolds singled into right center field with one out in the fourth before Mitchell doubled deep into the left field corner to plate his teammate for a 6-1 lead.
French Creek Valley would add a run in the fifth inning before Wilcox would tally a trio of runs in the sixth. Peterson and Reynolds notched back-to-back singles to open the frame. Mitchell Holmberg moved the runners into scoring position with a sacrifice bunt. Mitchell was intentionally walked to load the bases again. After a strikeout, Joe Holmberg was walked which allowed Peterson to trot home. Taylor Feronti belted a 2-run single which would score Reynolds and Mitchell for an 8-2 Wilcox lead after six innings.
Kocjancic led off the seventh with a single and Peterson bunted his way aboard again down the third base line. Reynolds hit into a fielder's choice to third before Mitchell Holmberg would reach on a French Creek Valley error on the third baseman as he threw the ball away on a throw to first. Peterson would score on the play. Mitchell hit a sacrifice fly to score Reynolds.
French Creek Valley opened the scoring with a run in the third. Hunter Johnston led off with a single then advanced to second on an AJ Thompson sacrifice bunt. Stephen Sada singled up the middle to score Johnston for a 1-0 French Creek Valley lead.
Austin Scere doubled for French Creek Valley in the fifth to score Thompson who had singled with one out for French Creek Valley's second run. They also added a run in the eighth on a Luke Carter sacrifice fly which score Kyle Wise.
Peterson and Reynolds each had three hits and three runs scored for Wilcox. As a team, Wilcox finished with 16 hits spaced out over nine players. Feronti had two RBI while Holmberg had one to complement the big day from Mitchell with his six RBI. Mitchell, Kocjancic and Feronti each had two hits for Wilcox.
"Our pitching did real good, I think we held them at bay," coach Peterson said. "Our defense is strong, I said it all before. We'll throw pitches and let them hit it. Overall, the guys came through swinging the bats. Jesse hit the ball well, Josh with the grand slam. Everybody participated, I can't even name them all, that's the way it's supposed to be. That's a good team, they were 25-1."
Wilcox's 1-2 pitching punch of Peterson and Mitchell kept French Creek Valley at Bay. Peterson started the game and threw the first four innings, allowing one run on four hits with one walk and five strikeouts. Mitchell finished the game as he pitched the last five innings with a walk and four strikeouts. He gave up two runs on six hits.
"We had bigtime pitching from Cole and Josh," coach Peterson said. "I was going to jump in and give someone else a ride but you have to get that first one. Last year, we lost the first one. This year, we won it."
In other action Saturday, Albion won 9-2 over Corry while Millcreek disposed of Meadville 20-7. St. Marys downed Brookville 6-5 in the nightcap.