Wildcat boys power through second round of playoffs, stall in semifinals
by Jack Deming
Jun 14, 2014 | 2671 views | 0 0 comments | 34 34 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Colin Lozito slides into third base during the first inning of Friday’s 14-1 victory over Proctor.
Colin Lozito slides into third base during the first inning of Friday’s 14-1 victory over Proctor.
WILMINGTON- For the first time under the name Twin Valley, the high school’s baseball team made it to the doorstep of a state championship. The Marble Valley League champion Wildcats powered their way through the second round of the playoffs, using their hot bats and the arm of Dal Nesbitt to propel them to the semifinals. Twin Valley had defeated second-seed Mount St. Joseph twice this season, but the third time would not be the charm, as the Wildcats, led by a group of seniors who have been together since tee-ball age, fell before they could try for the Division IV championship. “We went further than any varsity baseball team has for Twin Valley,” said manager Jim Burke. “It’s bittersweet for the seniors who make it that far and that’s as far as they go, but they didn’t give up all year, and our coaches and ballplayers deserve a lot of credit for this season.”

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WILMINGTON- The last time the Wildcats played upstate rival Proctor, the ending was far from pretty. The Phantoms were walked in for a 6-5 win in the bottom of the seventh, resulting in one of their two victories this year. Friday night, the Wildcats looked aggressive, determined to not let the mistakes that doomed them earlier in the year doom them again, especially not in the second round of the playoffs.

Dal Nesbitt got hot, and he stayed hot, throwing a full seven innings, and totaling five strikeouts and one hit in the first three innings. Nesbitt’s fastball was working, his curveball was working, and the seven boys behind him were working like a well-oiled defensive machine. Craig Green and Sam Molner kept especially busy in the outfield chasing bombs while the infield wasn’t afraid to get their jerseys dirty to force outs at first.

Twin Valley got a lead-off hit in the first inning from Colin Lozito, who stole his way home, but a batter interference call would negate the run. Nesbitt stuffed the Phantoms with a one-two-three inning in the second, including two straight K’s, but the Wildcats would strand a runner in the bottom of the inning as well. Then, the boys in red broke loose, scoring five in the third with Lozito and Brett Swanson each recording a run and an RBI. Kyle Murdock also got home, and drove in two runs with a bloop over third base.

Following more quick work from Nesbitt in the fourth, Swanson knocked home Lozito, and Cade Nesbitt made it home for the 7-0 lead. Andre Crebb scored Proctor’s only run in the fifth inning, but two more were left stranded. Twin Valley added two more in the inning, followed by a five-run sixth that saw Swanson continue his big day with another two-RBI swing.

Nesbitt finished his complete game with seven strikeouts, one walk, and six scattered hits. Shaun Blanchard took the loss for the Phantoms and Crebb went 1-3.

According to manager Jim Burke, this year’s success is due to his seniors leading by example. “They tasted victory and they know how to win,” said Burke. “They proved all year that they don’t give up and that’s a big difference from last year. This year they won a championship in soccer, they almost won one in basketball, and they continue to fight because they know what it takes.”

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To make it to the Division IV championships, the Marble Valley league champion Wildcats would need to fight their way through Mount St. Joseph, a team they had beaten for the Marble Valley League but fell one spot short of in Division IV rankings. On the threshold of competing in a state championship game, the Wildcat bats fell silent, and Twin Valley took the bus ride home with a 7-1 loss.

Twin Valley handled Mount St. Joseph well in their two regular season matches, and got out to a 1-0 lead in the top of the third. Brett Swanson, who has emerged as an RBI machine late in the season, drove in Cade Nesbitt, who got on base with a walk. That was all the Wave allowed, as pitcher Zach Lanzillo showed command and control, and MSJ found ways to strand a total of nine Wildcat runners in scoring position.

“We beat them two times this year, and they say it’s tough to beat a team three times in a row,” said Burke. “I don’t believe that, our bats went quiet. We left nine men on, and it was not errors that killed us, our bats just didn’t make it happen.”

The Wave’s Nate O’Shea and Brandon Wortman each scored in the bottom of the third to take the lead from the Wildcats, followed by Tyler Billings and Colin Gilbert in the fifth. MSJ eventually went up 7-1 and with a last-inning effort, the Wildcats stranded two of their nine on the night. Lanzillo allowed seven hits and struck out six for the win. Sam Molner took the loss for the Wildcats, pitching 5 1/3 innings.

While the season ended a game short of the goal, Burke said this season proved something: baseball is back at Twin Valley. “All good must come to an end, but these men can walk away from this year and say what a great year it was.

It says a lot to have the top four seeds in Division IV in the semifinals, and this is not where we wanted to stop, but to make it this far made it a great season. Our coaches saw this year culminate because the respect was there, they all had big hearts, and they knew how to be team players.”
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