Ellwood City baseball strikes late to oust Deer Lakes

Wednesday, May 15, 2019 | 7:45 PM

It’s not often a strikeout results in the winning run scoring.

But that is what happened Wednesday afternoon as Ellwood City defeated Deer Lakes, 2-1, in an opening-round Class 3A baseball playoff game at Neshannock’s Mike Kirkwood Field.

With the scored tied 1-1, Douglas Balin opened the seventh with a walk. Pinch runner Noah Magill took second on a sacrifice.

With Lancers second baseman Trey Darrah trying to hold Magill close to the bag, Joseph Rush bunted, and Darrah couldn’t get to first in time to cover, giving the Wolverines runners at first and third.

When Ashton Wilson struck out on a pitch in the dirt for the second out, the ball bounced away slightly from Lancers catcher Josh Probst.

Probst looked Magill back to third, then threw to first to finish the out. At the same time, Magill charged from third to score the winning run.

“To be honest with you, in the seventh inning, I don’t think they get the run if the play before that doesn’t happen,” Deer Lakes coach John Tysk said. “We were late covering the bag, and the bunt play would have been an out. It’s just a shame.”

“Whatever the game delivers our way, we’ll take it,” Ellwood City coach Jeff Fotia said. “We’re fortunate that our guys work hard. It’s part of our game. We’re always looking for whatever happens next.”

The No. 11 Wolverines, who had to win their last two games of the section season to qualify for the playoffs, are 8-9 and will play third-seeded Brownsville early next week at a time and site to be determined.

The No. 6 Lancers, who lost a one-run heartbreaker for the third consecutive postseason, finished 11-9.

“This group is something special to me,” Tysk said. “The seniors, we’ve been through a lot. They will be Lancers forever. They did a great job down the stretch this year and the other years.”

Deer Lakes broke through with a run in the bottom of the fifth. With two outs and none on, Cory Newman walked.

With Newman breaking on a 3-2 pitch, freshman Justin Brannagan clubbed a double to left, and Newman scored standing up. The next two Lancers batters walked.

Andrew Bokulich hit a high popup to short left-center. With four players converging, second baseman Brady Welsh caught the ball in a crowd, or Deer Lakes could have broken the game open.

The Wolverines tied it in the sixth. Ryan Gibbons walked, and, after Lancers pitcher Greg Geis made an outstanding catch running into foul territory along the third-base line, Sam DeCaprio slammed a double to left to bring in pinch runner Zion Brunney.

In the second, with Magill pinch running at third, Balin hit a fly ball to left field. Magill tagged, but a superb throw by Bokulich caught Magill in plenty of time to end the threat.

With two outs in the Lancers seventh, Probst singled and took second on a passed ball. With first base open, Geis was walked intentionally even though he was the potential winning run. Freshman reliever Zach Polojac struck out Bokulich to end the game.

“This is the first time we’ve won three in row all year,” Fotia said. “I thought we got some good pitching today and made some nice plays defensively.”

Geis, a West Liberty recruit, pitched a complete game and was the tough-luck loser.

“It’s a shame they walked him. I had the right guy up,” Tysk said. “They did a great job coaching today, and good for them. (Geis) had only 89 pitches. He had 16 to go if we went to extra innings.”

Watch an archived video stream broadcast of this game on the TribLive High School Sports Network.

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