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NTL BASEBALL: WYALUSING USES CLUTCH DEFENSIVE PLAYS LATE TO EDGE CANTON IN DISTRICT OPENER (2024-05-19)

BY CHRIS MANNING
Northern Tier Sports Report
CANTON — The game was going to end with fireworks one way or another. Wyalusing led 4-3 in the bottom of the seventh but Canton had the bases loaded with one out. One run and its extra innings, two runs and its a walk-off. But things can turn on a dime in baseball, and that’s what Wyalusing second basemen CJ Carr did, fielding a ground ball to turn a 4-6-3 double play to preserve the Rams’ 1-run win in the opening round of the District IV, Class AA baseball playoffs Saturday.

“That’s just how I wrote it up in the beginning of the inning - lets get the bases loaded, with nobody out and then get out of it,” joked Wyalusing coach Nick Vanderpool. 


Hunter House was manning first base at the time and knew it was going to be close.


“I’d see it hit, and I knew he had our middle infielders playing even, and, I knew with our middle infield, one of the best in the NTL, we were going to have it,” House said. “It was just a matter if Trehnon was going to make a good throw or not, and I was ready for anything.”


Hudson Ward led off the inning with a single, followed by Ben Fitch drawing a walk. A wild pitch saw them move up to second and third with no outs, so Wyalusing made the decision to get the force at home by walking Cohen Landis.


“That runner at first didn’t really have any meaning,” Vanderpool said. “These are the two big ones so I just figured we give ourselves a chance to make the play.”


Bailey Gardner hit a ground ball to Trehnon Hugo at short, who threw out Hudson Ward at home to catcher Isaac Shaffer to keep the 1-run lead.


The very next pitch Zach Colton hit into the double play for the ender.


“Hugo made a great play there, a bang-bang play at home,” Vanderpool said. “Then the double play there to end it, just a real good baseball game.”


Wyalusing jumped out to a 3-1 lead in the first, then pushed it to 4-1 with a run in the third. Canton cut it to a 1-run game in the fourth as they pushed across two runs, making it high drama baseball for the final three innings.


“We play a little bit better with a lead,” Vanderpool said. “Hats off to Canton, they grinded all game. They got a big hit there - Junior almost ran it down out there - but got two runs to make it a 1-run ball game, and make it a little more stressful on everybody but our defense played great. We did have a couple errors, but we picked that one error up with a double play on the next batter. Hunter made a great play on Holden Ward in the middle, and we definitely made the plays when we had to, and that’s playoff baseball.”


For the second year in a row Canton sees their season come to an end at the hands of Wyalusing. They out hit the Rams, and played with less errors but left eight runners on base.


“That was a testament to our whole season, every single game was that way,” said Canton coach Ben Rubert. “Finally, at the end, it just didn’t go our way, but I wish the guys over there the best of luck going forward. I know they’v all played a lot of baseball, good luck to Wyalusing. I’m proud of the way we fought and battled, and my seniors had a great last season. It sucks to lose that way, but someone has to.”


For the second time in as many weeks House was strong on the mound against Canton. He struck out five with four walks, seven hits, and three runs, two of them earned, in six innings to get the win. Parker Petlock tossed the final inning, allowing two walks.


“After my start here last Saturday I knew I was going to get the start here,” House said. “Trehnon’s arm has been hurting lately so he told me I was going to get the start, and I was just ready, locked in.”


Kenny Mapes (1-for-3) had a double with a run scored while Casey God (1-for-3) had 2-RBI. Carr (1-for-4) scored a run, with Trehnon Hugo and Nick Vanderpool Jr. both crossing home. House had an RBI, as well.


Holden Ward was House’s equal on the mound, going six innings with seven strikeouts, seven walks, three hits, and four runs, three of them earned, in six innings of action to take the loss.


Colton pitched the final inning for the Warriors.


Hudson Ward (2-for-3) had a double with two runs scored as Fitch (1-for-3) knocked in two runs.


Jason Mahosky (1-for-2) scored a run with Landis (1-for-2) and Garnder (1-for-4) both getting hits.


Carr led off the first with a hit, followed by Vanderpool reaching on an error. Canton intentionally walked Hugo to load the bases.


Holden Ward would get a strikeout, but House drew a walk to bring in Carr for the 1-0 lead.


That set up God’s 2-run single for the 3-0 Wyalusing advantage.


Canton would get out of the inning with a double play.


On the other side Canton struck back as Holden and Hudson Ward drew back to back walks. An error off the bat of Fitch loaded the bases with no outs.


Wyalusing would turn a 1-2-3 double play to keep the Warriors off the scoreboard, but an error off the bat of Gardner brought in Hudson Ward to make it 3-1.


In the top of the third Mapes hit a 1-out double, and ended up all the way on third. He later scored on a wild pitch for a 4-1 Wyalusing lead.


Canton loaded the bases with two outs in the bottom half of the inning, but House got out of the jam by getting a fielder’s choice.


In the bottom of the fourth Mahosky would draw a 1-out walk, followed by Hudson Ward hitting a 2-out double. Fitch then singled in both to make it 4-3.


The Rams got two on with one out in the top of the fifth but Canton got out of the jam.


In the bottom of the sixth House had just 10 pitches left but managed to get through the inning, thanks to a 1-4-3 double play.


“A gutsy performance by Hunter, what I expect out of him,” Vanderpool said.


Then came the legendary seventh inning.


For Canton, they end the season as NTL Division-II champs, winning more than losing their fare share of close games like this one. However, somebody has to lose in the opening round of districts.


“It’s how our kids have been all year,” Rubert said. “They’ve been gritty, and I would never count them out of anything.”


Wyalusing will move on to the semifinals on Wednesday as they take on the winner of top seed Montgomery, and eighth seed Northwest. They’ve already beaten Northwest this year, and will have all their pitchers available, something that might not be the case of either other team.


“The boys have been together a long time and they don’t want it to be over yet, either,” said Vanderpool. “Pitching is going to be interesting for them, and we’re sitting in a good spot. We’re where we want to be and hopefully we’ll make a return trip to Bowman Field.”


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PHOTOS BY LANCE LARCOM



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