By VINCE PELUSO
The Pymatuning Valley Lakers’ baseball season came to a close on Tuesday night at Euclid as they fell to Wickliffe, 4-2, in a Division III district semifinal.
After being shut out for the first six innings, the Lakers attempted to stage a late comeback.
Coming off the bench, senior Mason Lipani laced a triple to lead off the inning and eventually scored as PV plated two runs in the inning to cut the deficit in half.
No. 3 hitter Tim Cross came up with two runners on and hit a liner to left-center that appeared to be in the gap, but the ball was tracked down for the final out, ending the Lakers’ season.
“We were a little too aggressive at the plate today,” PV coach Nathan Smith said. “Their pitcher really kept us off balance until the seventh inning and we kind of finally put an inning together. Tim hit a line shot, the kid made a nice play, if that falls we score two runs.”
Darren Petrowski (5-2) was handed the tough-luck loss.
A misplayed ball in the top of the first resulted in one of two triples in the inning for Wickliffe as it plated two runs to take an early 2-0 lead.
“Petrowksi really battled for us,” Smith said. “He had some misfortune on a miscue on the first play, that triple is a ball we usually catch. They ended up with back-to-back triples to get on the board. He battled the rest of the way.”
Smith credited the Blue Devils for working to score their runs, while his own pitchers battled to keep them off the scoreboard.
“They had a lot of quality at-bats, a lot of tough outs and really scrapped to get their four runs,” he said. “They didn’t touch Hunter, though. We just couldn’t get going offensively. Darren kept it close enough for us, we had a chance at the end.”
Chase Thurber and Jon Burford both had doubles to lead the PV offense while Thurber also walked twice.
“I have to give (their pitching) all the credit, we have been rolling,” Smith said. “But our guys were a little anxious. They kept us off balance. We didn’t really work him as hard as we have done.
“Give the kids credit, they fought ’til the end.”
In his first year with the Lakers, Smith led PV to a split Northeastern Athletic Conference title (they tied with Grand Valley) and a sectional title.
It was an impressive run considering the Lakers started the season 0-5.
“Oh, it was a fantastic season, I’m so proud of the boys,” he said. “We started 0-5 then went 16-2 from there. Any time they were challenged, they fought back. I give a tremendous amount of credit to a great group of seniors, so proud of those boys for how we fought.”
Additionally, Smith is plenty optimistic about the season ahead.
“We bring back (one of the top players in the area) in Chase Thurber, he’s a big part of the team,” he said. “We have Travis Kiser back, our leadoff for almost the entire year. Then Hunter Rhoades comes back as our ace.
“We have a strong nucleus and I see nothing but good things ahead.”