ST. MARYS – It was gradual. It was dominant. It's a Region 8 championship for the Wilcox American Legion baseball team.
Wilcox scored in seven of eight innings and outhit Albion 16-3 to capture the American Legion Region 8 tournament with a 12-0, 8-inning victory over Albion in the championship game at Berwind Park Wednesday afternoon.
"Overall, a nice tournament by everybody, a team effort," Wilcox coach Jeff Peterson said. "There are quality teams in the tournament, we got beat by a quality team and we beat quality teams. There's no slackers in this tournament, they're all good teams so we earned it. This is a nice, quality tournament win."
While Wilcox was consistently hitting, Albion could not solve the combination of Cole Peterson and Quinn Luhr on the mound. Peterson started the game and went six innings as he allowed two hits with two walks and six strikeouts. Luhr pitched the final two innings and allowed one hit while walking a batter.
"A nice job by Cole again throwing," coach Peterson said. "He was a little high, riding high there a little bit and getting high pitch counts but he was getting right back into it. That's not bad for all the innings he's thrown. Then Quinn coming in, we were sitting pretty so we could jump in and bring Quinn in and he threw real well against this team the other night so we figured we'd go with him and he did a real good job. It saves us using Josh (Mitchell) again, we'll save him for down there."
Peterson led off the game for Wilcox by reaching on an Albion error. Peterson hit a ball that was misplayed by Albion starting pitcher Alex Caruana. Jesse Reynolds then singled. A fielder's choice earned Albion an out at third base before Josh Mitchell would single home Reynolds from second for the game's first run.
Wilcox added another run in the second inning. Luhr led off with a walk and Cameron Grumley singled to center. Frank Kocjancic reached on a fielder's choice to second base, moving Luhr to third. Peterson singled to bring Luhr to the plate for a 2-0 Wilcox lead.
Mitchell singled with one out in the third and Joe Holmberg followed with a long single on a frozen rope to the fence in right center, advancing Mitchell to third. Wilcox catcher Ben MacDonald successfully executed a squeeze play which plated Mitchell for a 3-0 advantage.
Wilcox's defense came up with a strong play in the home half of the third as Grumley robbed Josh Ponsoll of a hit with a diving catch in center field.
"Cameron laying out and making that diving catch, things could turn around at that time," coach Peterson said. "They get a run or two there, things could have changed."
Grumley walked and Kocjancic doubled to right field, putting two Wilcox runners in scoring position. Peterson brought both runners around with a single to give Wilcox a 5-0 lead.
A 2-out rally sparked the offense for Wilcox in the sixth inning. Mitchell Holmberg and Mitchell both walked and both scored on a long double from Joe Holmberg which pushed the lead to 7-0.
The 2-out magic continued in the seventh as Wilcox again added a pair of runs with two out. Kocjancic singled up the middle and Peterson knocked an opposite field double down the left field line. Reynolds would then single for the second time which would plate Kocjancic and Peterson for a 9-0 Wilcox lead.
CJ Herbstritt provided a highlight off the bench with a triple to score MacDonald and Luhr. Kocjancic followed with an RBI double which scored Herbstritt for a 12-0 lead. Kocjancic was 3 for 5 with two runs scored, two doubles and one RBI hitting out of the No. 9 spot in the order.
"Frankie Kocjancic swung a nice bat," coach Peterson said. "Frankie's starting to come around. He's a sleeper. You think he's down at No. 9 with nothing there and he pops one on you for a double. We're right there hitting well, everybody's swinging the bat nice."
Peterson led Wilcox with three RBI. Reynolds, Mitchell and Herbstritt each had a pair of runs batted in. Mitchell had three hits along with Kocjancic and Joe Holmberg.
Wilcox defeated Albion 8-3 on Sunday to go 2-0 against them. Wilcox went 1-1 against French Creek Valley and 1-0 against Millcreek to finish 4-1 in the tournament. Coach Peterson was pleased with the way the team bounced back after the 11-6 loss to French Creek Valley Tuesday night.
"We battled for five games, we had a bad night [Tuesday night] but we rebounded," coach Peterson said. "Once we get backed into a corner, we come out swinging. We did well."
Albion advanced to the championship game with a 6-2 victory over French Creek Valley earlier Wednesday afternoon.
Wilcox advances to the American Legion State Tournament in Boyertown with play beginning next Tuesday. Wilcox will open against Region 4 champion Ephrata in the second game on Tuesday with more information to be announced. Coach Peterson said he is happy to be representing the area at the state tournament.
"It was nice to represent right here," coach Peterson said. "I'll take it any way I can get it. It was nice to score every inning, get a nice lead and we can relax a little bit with pitching and everything. We were coasting pretty good and it looked good."