LANCASTER — It isn’t every day that a team can lay claim to being one of the last two standing in the battle for a state championship. Yet that is where the Waverly Post 142 Junior Shockers (17U) found themselves on Saturday afternoon.
After winning the regional championship for the right to go to state by coming out of the losers’ bracket in a double-elimination tournament last week, the Shockers hoped to do the same in the bid for a state title over the weekend. In both the regional and state tournaments, they won their opening round game before falling in the second.
As previously reported, they won their state tourney opener over Utica Post 92 by a score of 15-7 in what ended up being a very late rainy Thursday night at Beavers Field.
The win over Utica sent Waverly to a Friday afternoon matchup with the Sylvania Post 468 Black Swamp Raiders (16U). The Swamp Raiders had defeated Lancaster Post 11 in the opening round by a score of 13-7. Sylvania eventually went on to win a state title by winning an oh-so-close second game over Waverly.
In the first meeting between Waverly and Sylvania, which was the second round for both teams, the Black Swamp Raiders had pitchers Chase Kirk and Grant Tefft combine to pitch a shutout. Post 468 put three runs on the board in the first, fourth and sixth innings, resulting in a 9-0 win during that Friday afternoon battle.
Christian Horn and Cole Borland had the only two hits for the Shockers. Horn was on base twice, as he also worked a walk. Aodhan Queen, Chris Queen and Carter Nickel all drew a walk as well, while Hunter Edwards was hit by a pitch. Nickel had his team’s only stolen base.
After Sylvania put up three runs in the top of the first inning, Horn and Aodhan Queen both walked, and Edwards was hit by a pitch to fill the bags. That was Waverly’s best opportunity, but the Shockers left the bases loaded as Chase Kirk recorded back-to-back strikeouts to get out of the jam.
Horn and Borland had back-to-back singles in the second inning in what they hoped would be a two-out rally. But it was not to be.
Chris Queen and Nickel walked in the fourth. Post 468 made a pitching change, bringing in Tefft, who did not allow another Shocker to reach base for the rest of the game. Tefft faced eight batters and struck out three of them in the 9-0 win for the Black Swamp Raiders.
That left the Shockers little time to go home and regroup before returning to play at 11 a.m. on Saturday morning in a game they needed to win to play for the championship.
“I just told the boys we’ve been in this position before and still have a lot to battle for, so we have to put that game behind us and focus on what’s in front of us,” said Junior Shockers Head Coach Trey Clemmons.
The Shockers returned to action Saturday morning, tasked with defeating Beverly/Lowell Post 359/750. Beverly/Lowell had lost to Sylvania Post 468 in the very first game of the tournament. That meant Beverly/Lowell had to defeat Utica Post 92 to stay in the hunt for the championship. They were up to the task, winning 17-7 over Utica.
The Shockers were not intimidated or denied. Although the final score read 17-1 in favor of Post 142, the contest was closely contested through four frames.
Clemmons said the win showed what kind of fight the Waverly Post 142 players have in them.
Post 142 was able to push a run across in the opening inning. Jase Hurd was hit by a pitch with one out and later scored when Hunter Edwards reached base on an error, 1-0.
The score remained there until the top of the fourth inning. Waverly’s Garrett Moore drew a leadoff walk, went to second on a groundout from Carter Nickel, and scored on a flyout from Cole Borland, 2-0.
The floodgates opened for the Shockers in the top of the fifth inning. Jase Hurd led off with a double before Aodhan Queen worked a walk. Then Hunter Edwards blasted another double, sending them home to double the score, 4-0. That was just the beginning.
Malik Diack and Ben Nichols both walked, filling the bases. A passed ball allowed all of the runners to move up with Edwards scoring to make it 5-0. Moore delivered the third double of the inning, sending Diack and Nichols home, 7-0.
The inning continued with back-to-back hits from Nickel and Borland, allowing Moore to score, 8-0. Back-to-back outs followed as Nickel was caught stealing and Christian Horn hit a fly to center field. Jase Hurd came up again, blasting a triple to send Borland across the dish, 9-0, before a fly ball ended the frame.
Fired up, the Shockers made quick work of Beverly/Lowell’s batters in the top of the fifth. Diack was able to get the first batter on strikes. The second batter singled, but a double play ended any hopes of starting a rally.
Post 142 filled the bases in the top of the sixth inning, but couldn’t get anyone home.
The Shockers continued to hit in the top of the seventh, putting eight more runs on the board. Borland worked a leadoff walk to start the inning before Horn reached base on an error. Next, Jase Hurd reached on an error, allowing both Borland and Horn to score, 11-0. Aodhan Queen and Zane Brownfield both walked, filling the bags. That prompted a pitching change for Beverly/Lowell, resulting in a strikeout. However, the next batter, Ben Nichols, walked to push Hurd home, starting a sequence of six straight batters collecting RBIs. Moore, Borland, Horn and Jase Hurd all had RBI singles. Tanner Nichols collected his by working a walk, 17-0.
An error and a double allowed Beverly/Lowell to push its lone run across in the bottom of the seventh, making the final score 17-1.
“I think it was a good boost and reassurance to the team to show them what they’re still capable of after having a rough game the night before,” said Clemmons about the resounding victory.
Offensively for the Shockers, Jase Hurd led at the plate, going 3-for-4 with a double, a triple, one stolen base, three runs and four big RBIs. Garrett Moore was 2-for-4 with a double with three runs and three RBIs. Cole Borland batted 2-for-4 with three RBIs, two runs and a stolen base. Hunter Edwards ended his day 2-for-3 with a double, two RBIs and a stolen base. Horn was 2-for-6 with a run and one RBI.
Diack pitched six innings, giving up one unearned run on three hits, while striking out seven and walking two. Chris Queen pitched the final inning, allowing just one hit.
Those results meant a showdown with the Sylvania Post 468 Black Swamp Raiders after just a few short minutes of rest. The Black Swamp Raiders had been waiting and watching to see which team they would need to face in the quest for a state title.
The Shockers knew they faced a formidable foe. But they kept the game close and gave themselves a chance before ultimately falling 6-3.
“We had a better scouting report on them the second time around, as far as who their main guys were and what are some different ways to face them,” explained Clemmons. “We tried pitching them backwards to mess with their timing, or see if we could catch them off guard in certain situations. They’re a very good team with a lot of talent, and we hung in there with them.”
Sylvania struck first, plating a run in the first inning, using a single, an error, a steal and an RBI-groundout, 1-0.
Jase Hurd doubled in the bottom of the second. Hunter Edwards also walked, but both of them were stranded.
A walk and a hit led to another run for the Black Swamp Warriors in the top of the third inning, 2-0. Sylvania then pushed another run home with a walk in the top of the fourth to go up 3-0.
The Shockers put together a rally in the bottom of the sixth inning. Malik Diack started the frame by reaching base on an error that allowed him to go all the way to second. Then Ben Nichols singled, pushing Diack to third. Garrett Moore had the next hit, grounding to centerfield. The hit ushered Diack home although Nichols was out at second. Up next, Carter Nickel drew a walk. Then Cole Borland singled on a grounder to left field, filling the bags. Christian Horn delivered the hit to tie the game, sending a ground ball to center field to plate Nickel and Borland, 3-3. A double play brought the scoring to an end, but the game was tied.
Defensively, the Shockers recorded two quick outs in the top of the seventh. But a double off the bat of a Sylvania player, opened the door for a three-run rally, putting the Black Swamp Raiders ahead once again.
Waverly attempted to rally in the final half inning. Aodhan Queen singled to lead off the bottom of the seventh, but he was caught stealing second. Hunter Edwards and Malik Diack drew walks. Both moved into scoring position on a passed ball, but a strikeout and a groundout brought the game and run to an end with Sylvania taking the 6-3 victory to claim the state championship.
For the state runner-up Shockers, Horn produced a pair of RBIs in a 1-for-4 performance. Moore had the other RBI, going 2-for-3 with a run. Queen was 3-for-4 with a stolen base. Nickel was 1-for-1 with a run. Jase Hurd finished 1-for-4 with a double. Ben Nichols was also 1-for-4, while Cole Borland was 2-for-3. The Junior Shockers finish the year with an overall record of 14-9 with regional championship and state runner-up trophies.
In the end, summer baseball gives players the chance to work on skills and teamwork, while creating memories and friendships.
“I’m hoping this helped a lot of the boys to gain more reps and experience. By having four different schools (Waverly, Piketon, Valley, Minford) represented on our team, they learned some different tricks from some new friends,” said Clemmons. “We should have a decent amount of guys to return next year, so this just means we have to repeat and win it all next time!”
Clemmons and the rest of the staff enjoyed the ride.
“This was my first year and a couple others helping coach (Jeffrey “Junior” Noble, Reid Chapman, Brayden Snodgrass), being their first year as well, so we’re still learning a lot and had a super fun time coaching this great group of boys,” said Clemmons. “It’s nice to see them all get along they way they did and they’ve all made lifelong friendships because of it. Can’t wait for next season!”