Errors contribute to Bobcats' bounce from playoffs
BLAIRSVILLE--Walks and errors have hurt Blairsville all season.
On Monday, however, baseball's deadly duo may have cost the Bobcats their season.
West Branch scored four runs in each the fourth and sixth innings and capitalized on four walks and three errors, beating Blairsville 8-6 at WyoTech Park to eliminate the Bobcats from the District 6 Class AA playoffs.
"Walks have killed us and haunted us all year long," Blairsville coach Mark Zerfoss said. "I bet you that first batter, if we walked him, 99 percent of the time he scored. É That was kind of the thorn in our side this year was the walks and the few errors that we made and the clutch hitting. You pick a bad day like this to not have that, but that's part of baseball."
West Branch (11-9), the No. 12 seed, continued its Cinderella run in the District 6 playoffs, taking advantage of Blairsville's mistakes. The Warriors will play Bald Eagle Area, an 11-2 winner over Richland on Monday, in the semifinals.
"I told the kids that we have nothing to lose," West Branch coach Jake Myers said. "Nobody expects us to go anywhere. I told them to just go out there and play baseball the way they know how. We call it 'Warrior Baseball' and they are doing a heck of a job at it."
West Branch began the fourth inning with its first hit of the game when Jonny Demchak singled to center. After a Keatin Gaines flyout, Lance Kolesar singled to right, and Jesse Husted's walk loaded the bases.
The Bobcats (10-4), though, looked poised to get out of the inning when Blairsville starter Ben Doak struck out Frank Norris and Justin Shive hit a groundball to shortstop John Nepsha. But Husted beat the apparent force out at second and Demchak scored to make it 1-0.
Kolesar then scored on a wild pitch, and Ethan Lidgett's single to center scored Husted and Shive to make it 4-0.
"They have a great team," Zerfoss said. "They play well. There are some innings which we gave them 5, 6 outs. You can't do that. You can't do that in the Heritage Conference. You can't do that in a District 6 playoff game. They played great. They hit the ball. They scored the runs they needed to score, and they beat us today."
Blairsville countered with a three-run inning of its own. Caleb Fritz led off the bottom of the fourth with a single and walks by Cory Manarelli and Doak loaded the bases. Manny Speal then walked on five pitches, scoring Fritz.
After a Matt Moore flyout, Justin Palmer bounced into a likely double play, but a throwing error allowed him to reach base, and allowed Manarelli and Doak to score to make it 4-3.
West Branch added four more runs in the sixth, taking advantage of two Blairsville errors and a walk to make it 8-3.
Blairsville added three runs in the bottom of the sixth, but the Bobcats also left the bases loaded.
"When we got guys on, we couldn't manufacture the runs," Zerfoss said. "We were getting a few guys on, but we couldn't get that clutch hitting. That's what you need. Up until that last inning, I think we out hit them. É We just gave them too many outs. And that's going to kill you, no matter what level of baseball you are at."
Still, Zerfoss said the loss didn't take anything away from the season the Bobcats had.
"At the start of the season, we didn't even know we were even going to have a team," he said. "I wasn't asked to coach this team until about a week before the season started. The boosters worked hard to raise the money. The community was very generous in donating money. And we threw a team together. I mean these kids worked day in and day out.
"We don't have all the facilities a lot of schools have but these kids really worked hard. I told them after the game, they shouldn't have one regret or hang their head for one second. They really busted their butt all year long to get where we are today."