By: Ed Weaver | NTL Sports | May 26, 2017
The Wellsboro Varsity Baseball team advanced to their first District IV championship game since 2010 with a 6-3 win over Williamson on Thursday, May 25.
Also with the win, the Hornets qualified for their first-ever appearance in the PIAA State playoffs.
"It's a relief. We told the team in the beginning of the year if we get to 0.500 we're the team you don't want to play," said head coach Philip Prough. "We had a terrifically hard schedule, we knew that going into it. We're battle tested and my hat's off to this group of kids. As a team, collectively, they've done a lot of little things to get better. They put us in this position, this is their team, not mine."
Wellsboro jumped out to an early lead with three runs in the first. Junior Dalton Prough led off with an infield hit and beat out the throw to first. Sophomore Cam Tennis followed with a bunt and beat out the throw to put two runners on. A sacrifice bunt by freshman Billy Lechler advanced the runners and Prough scored in the next at bat as freshman Carson Davis doubled to left field.
The Hornets' final two runs of the first came with the bases loaded with junior Johnny Rowland at the plate. Rowland singled to right field to score both Tennis and Davis to make it 3-0. The Hornets tried to add more runs as sophomore Taynton Repard walked to load the bases again, but back-to-back ground outs ended the inning.
Wellsboro maintained their 3-0 lead and added another run in the top of the third. Davis singled up the middle to start the inning, then back-to-back bunt singles by junior Brent English and Rowland loaded the bases. With Repard at bat, a wild pitch from Williamson's Chase Austin gave the green light for Davis to steal home. Davis beat the tag at the plate, making the score 4-0.
Williamson, however, cut the Hornets' lead in half in the bottom half of the inning. A single to shallow center field by Hunter Sackett and walks by Brock Sackett and Austin loaded the bases for Brandon Enck. Enck capitalized with a single to left field to score Sackett and Sackett.
Wellsboro tried to add to their lead in the top of the fifth. Rowland led off the inning with a double and a sacrific bunt by Repard moved Rowland to third. Junior Parker Mann singled to shallow center field in the next at bat and Rowland tried to score, but was thrown out at home plate.
Wellsboro would get that run back, and add another, in the top of the sixth. Prough drew a walk to start the inning, and after stealing second, a Tennis single moved Prough to third. Prough initially was held on the bag, but Williamson failed to get the ball back to the infield fast enough, allowing Prough to score to put the Hornets up 5-2. A Lechler line drive to right field moved Tennis to third, and Tennis tried to score in the next at bat as Davis grounded into a fielder's choice, but was tagged out at home. With junior Brandon Plume on to run for Lechler and freshman Lucas Citrino on for Davis, Austin made a move to check Citrino at first, but the ball got away from Enck allowing Plume to score, making it 6-2.
With Davis on in relief for Rowland to start the bottom of the sixth, Williamson attempted to make a comeback. Enck led off with an infield hit, Tyler Anderson walked, and Colin Heilbrun hit a bunted and beat the throw to first to load the bases. Davis hit Dawson Hackett in the next at bat to score Enck to make it 6-3. The Warriors' half of the inning ended as Hunter Sackett grounded into a double play.
The Hornets went down in order in the top of the seventh giving Williamson one final chance in the bottom of the seventh. Rowland recorded the first out the inning on a nice diving catch in shallow center robbing Brock Sackett of a base hit, but a base hit by Jared Stermer and a walk by Enck but two runners on. Davis then loaded the bases by hitting Anderson with a pitch. Lechler came on in relief for Davis and got Heilbrun to ground out to Repard to end the game one at bat later.
"Our boys have slowly built up to this," continued Prough. "The first half of the year was really finding out where we need the pieces to be, the second half has been fine-tuning that. My hat's off to them. They've worked hard. They deserve it. This is a good team."
Rowland was 3-for-4 with a double while Davis, Tennis, and Lechler each went 2-for-4 with Davis adding a double. Mann, English, and Prough added the rounded out the rest of Wellsboro's 12 hits on the night.
Rowland scattered 4 hits in 5 innings of work to pick up the win, his 8th of the season, and struck out 5 while allowing 2 runs. Davis went 1 2/3 innings allowing a run on one hit with 2 walks and a strikeout, and Lechler threw 1/3 of an inning.
Next up for the Hornets is a date with South Williamsport on Tuesday, May 30 at Medlar Field on the campus of Penn State University in State College, PA. First pitch is scheduled for 4:00 p.m.