By RICH KELLY
For the Star Beacon
ANDOVER TOWNSHIP —
The Pymatuning Valley Lakers overcame a slow start to outslug the Cardinal Huskies 15-12 in a Division III sectional championship on Wednesday at PV.
After a balk call on Lakers pitcher Hunter Rhoades negated a spectacular play in the field by Collin Winkler, the hurler took a deep breath, and for a while anyway, found what he had been missing to that point.
“I’ve been excited all day about this game,” Winkler said. “When I saw it raining this morning at school, I was worried we might get rained out. I even went out with Mr. (Kevin) Brown and worked on the field for a while. I’m just happy our field retains water well. I was able to play well and help the team out.”
Winkler made three superb plays in right, the last coming leading off the top of the fourth for Cardinal. Again, it was a deep drive to right center that he snared while running back.
After a pitching change for PV (15-7) in the fourth, he came in to play third base and made another pair of great plays to snuff out potential rallies by Cardinal in a game that was in doubt to the very last pitch.
The teams combined for 12 errors, 26 bases on balls and just 16 hits.
“Our team has done a good job all season of scoring runs in games,” PV coach Nathan Smith said. “We can have some rough times due to inconsistency and then score a bunch in a hurry. Cardinal has a talented team, but we battled all the way just as they did to stay close. Our kids stuck with it when they got into trouble, and I think the turning point for us came when we got Tim Cross into the game pitching. He threw strikes and made them put the ball into play, and after a rough start, our defense settled down and played well when it had to.”
In the first for Cardinal (10-13), the first two hitters reached base, consecutive errors tallied a run and the bases were loaded when Zak Butcher (3 Hits, 2 RBIs) sent a drive to deep right center that Winkler could not handle well. A pair of runs scored on the play, and two walks later, the second to Tyler Evans with the bags juiced, led to a strikeout to end the carnage briefly.
PV drew four-straight walks in the bottom of the first, but leadoff hitter Travis Kiser (four walks, four runs scored, four stolen bases) was picked off at first with Chase Thurber up.
Thurber (four walks, three runs) also walked, a fielder’s choice plated a run then a Warren Kozlowski single scored tow more. Two more walks and an error accounted for the last of the eight runs in the inning.
Walks almost scuttled the Laker effort in the fourth. Winkler made his superb catch on Peters, Kress singled but was gunned down at second by Thurber. Six-straight walks, three from Rhoades and three more from his first replacement, Darren Petrowski, led Smith to get Cross into the game as four runs came home to make it 10-9 for PV.
PV tallied two in the bottom of the sixth on a single by Thurber and a dropped fly ball in right with two outs.
Two singles and a fielder’s choice scored one in the top of the seventh, another came in on an infield out, but Cross fanned pinch hitter Brandon Bella to finally end the contest.
“A win is a win,” Smith said almost sheepishly. “I am glad the kids came up with some good defense late in the game. We were really up at the end of the game, very much unlike our start. Every time we gave up something, we came back with just a little more. Credit the kids for that.”
Cardinal coach Brian George was succinct in his evaluation.
“We sure didn’t come out on the end of the score the way we wanted to,” he said. “We may have been a little tired, since this was our third game in three days, but both teams had some rough times defensively and both teams made a lot of mistakes. I thought when we cut it to 10-9 we had a chance, but PV hits the ball.
“They made more plays than we did. We only have three seniors and young teams will be inconsistent.”
Beside Butcher’s three hits and two RBI, Jake Bosak scored four runs, Jon Farmwald tallied three and plated another pair.
Winkler plated two with his first inning hit, and Kozlowski tallied two walks, drove home two, and hit safely twice as well.
Kelly is a freelance writer from Jefferson.