ST. MARYS – Once again, Wilcox has the fate of a tournament come down to one game.
Wilcox will play for the Region 8 championship this afternoon after an 11-6 loss to French Creek Tuesday night at Berwind Park.
French Creek Valley will play Albion at 1 p.m. with the winner to play Wilcox at 4 p.m. for the championship. Wilcox also faced this situation in the Elk County League Tournament as the team lost to Fox Township but rebounded to win the following day in the league title game.
"We lost to Fox, we got backed in a corner and we came back and put it to them," Wilcox coach Jeff Peterson said. "Now we're backed in a corner again and we're coming with our best guns. We're going to be ready to go, it's going to be a good game."
Things began to unravel for Wilcox in the fifth inning as the team made a pair of errors which evaporated a 2-1 lead. Kyle Wise singled to left field before AJ Thompson struck out and Adam Bronson flew out to center field. Tyler Walpers doubled to left field to score Wise and tie the game, Walpers scored on a single from Kyle McCray to shortstop as he hit it just far enough past shortstop to beat out a long throw from Cole Peterson. McCray threw eight innings and allowed six runs on 12 hits with four walks and six strikeouts. Wilcox had four of its runs in the seventh and eighth innings when McCray's pitch count become inflated. McCray finished with 134 pitches in eight innings.
"They had their best kid on the mound, he shut us down last year, we actually hit him better there at the end," coach Peterson said.
As the fifth continued, Luke Carter singled to move McCray to third. Ryan Paden walked to load the bases and Hunter Johnston would earn an RBI on a walk to score McCray for a 4-2 lead. Scott Sada reached on a Wilcox error which scored Carter and Paden for a 6-2 lead halfway through the game.
Errors were a problem on both ends as each team committed five miscues on the game.
"Our defense was terrible," coach Peterson said. "I think that's the worst game we had all year defensively. We're not an error-making team, we haven't made errors all year."
French Creek Valley added three runs in the top of the sixth inning before Wilcox added a pair of runs in the seventh on a 2-run single by Kyle Sheldon which scored Josh Mitchell and Peterson.
The teams each added two runs in the eighth inning. Walpers walked and later scored. McCray reached on a Wilcox error and also would cross the plate. In the home half of the eighth, Frank Kocjancic singled to left field and Peterson would also single to plate Kocjancic. Taylor Feronti doubled home Peterson to make the margin 11-6.
Wilcox opened the scoring with a run in the second inning. Quinn Luhr reached on an infield single with one out. A groundout by Cameron Grumley moved Luhr to second and Kocjancic singled Luhr home with a hit to left field.
In the fourth inning, French Creek Valley got on the board as McCray led off with a walk and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Carter. After a Paden strikeout, Johnston would single to plate McCary and tie the game.
Joe Holmberg led off the fourth with a single and then went to second as the ball was misplayed in the outfield. Luhr then bunted to first. The ball was thrown away into foul territory on the first base side. Holmberg would come around to score while Luhr would make the turn toward third. The French Creek Valley throw to third was airmailed past third which allowed Luhr to take the extra base for French Creek Valley's second error of the inning.
Peterson, Joe Holmberg, Luhr and Kocjancic each had two hits for Wilcox while Sheldon had two RBI. Peterson crossed the plate twice.
Jesse Reynolds started the game for Wilcox on the mound and went 4 2-3 innings, he walked three and struck out four. Mitchell Holmberg finished the last 4 1-3 innings with four walks and four strikeouts.
Coach Peterson said he has the pitching situation lined up with a combination of Peterson and Mitchell to be used in the championship game.
"We're set for our pitching," coach Peterson said. "No matter what, one of them got to play two games. It doesn't matter. They're going to be burning up pitching. They're both good teams that we're playing. It doesn't matter who face, I don't really care who face. We're going to be ready. We're going to come at them with our best whether they're worn down or not. That's what they're going to get, we're going to get strike throwers. There's going to be no walks, no freebies. It's going to be a good game."