Wilcox Legion falls in state tournament opener

BOYERTOWN – The Wilcox American Legion baseball team lost 5-2 to Ephrata in the opening game of the Pennsylvania American Legion baseball tournament held Tuesday afternoon at Boyertown. Both teams were wrapped up in a pitcher's duel for most of the game. Cole Peterson started for Wilcox and threw five shutout innings. He gave up three hits with two walks and six strikeouts. Brandon Miller threw a complete game for Ephrata and shut out Wilcox for the first eight innings before allowing a 2-run home run in the ninth. He allowed just four Wilcox hits and struck out six. Ephrata worked some 2-out magic in the seventh inning to ultimately break what had been a scoreless deadlock to that point. Shane Cochran walked as did Evan Weaver. After a balk, Paul Larusso singled home Weaver and pinch runner Matt Herbener as Ephrata took a 2-0 lead in the seventh inning. Ephrata would add some much-needed insurance runs on in the eighth inning. Andre Hoover led off with a single and Branden Rutt followed with a single of his own. Parke Martin walked to load the bases and Ryan Schwark also reached via the free pass to bring an Ephrata run around for a 3-0 lead. After a strikeout, Herbener hit into a fielder's choice. Wilcox was able to get the forceout at home but the throw to first to get the double play went into right field, allowing a pair of runners to cross the plate. Wilcox was able to get the third out on a rundown but the damage was done as Ephrata led 5-0 entering the ninth inning. Wilcox would not go down quietly and put a quick rally together, Mitchell Holmberg walked to lead off the ninth and Josh Mitchell followed with a rocket out of the ballpark for a home run to cut the margin to 5-2. Miller was able to retire the next three Wilcox hitters in order to finish off the game and move Ephrata into the winner's bracket. Wilcox had a good chance early in the second inning as Mitchell led off with a double to right center field. Joe Holmberg hit a line drive single which caused Mitchell to have to freeze at second. Miller was able to get a fielder's choice and two straight strikeouts to work out of the inning. Wilcox went in order in the first, third, fourth, seventh and eighth innings. Wilcox had two runners on in the sixth with two outs after Peterson led off with a walk and Mitchell followed with one two batters later. Miller was able to produce a flyout from Wilcox to end the threat. CJ Herbstritt singled with two outs in the fifth inning. Wilcox finished with four hits on the game. Mitchell was 2 for 3 with a double, home run, 2 RBI and a walk. Joe Holmberg had a hit as did Herbstritt. Branden Rutt had three hits to lead Ephrata. Wilcox will now play Boyertown in the second game of the day on Wednesday. It will be played 30 minutes after Game 1 between Hempfield East and Penn Hills, that game is slated to start at 9:30 a.m. In Game 1 Tuesday, Doylestown defeated Hempfield East, 6-3. In Game 3, Milton throttled Penn Hills, 17-9. Spring City won 5-1 over Boyertown in the nightcap Tuesday night.