Blue Devils reserve another spot in regional
STRUTHERS — It may have been a long night, but some things are worth waiting for.
For the top-seeded Western Reserve Blue Devils, they battled for three hours and 11 innings before squeezing in a run to capture the Division IV District championship Thursday night at Cene Park.
With the 4-3 win over Jackson-Milton, the Devils won their fourth straight district crown and will face the Dalton Bulldogs at 4 p.m. next Thursday at Pipe Yard Stadium in Lorain.
“We played in some tight ones, but never an 11-inning classic like this,” Blue Devils coach Ed Anthony remarked. “Emotions ran up and down, up and down.”
The exciting end was set up with a one-out base hit by Wyatt Larimer to left center to start the 11th inning. Larimer would then attempt to steal second base, but the throw from Bluejays catcher Noah Laster sailed into center field, allowing Larimer to race to third.
Bluejays coach Kevin Hogue decided to load the bases with Dom Velasquez at the plate. Velasquez laid down a perfect suicide squeeze bunt that allowed Larimer to race home with the winning run before the Jays could field the ball.
“We talked about this before. Dom is very good at that (bunting). He just kind of looked over there and we put the squeeze sign on, and I think I may have even seen a smile from him because that is how confident he is about that. It worked out for us,” Anthony explained.
“We did what we had to do there at the end. He could have gone the other way, but we had to do what we had to do.”
Larimer not only got the hit that ignited the rally, but he also pitched all 11 innings for the Devils, throwing 118 pitches (86 for strikes) in the marathon. High school pitchers are only permitted to throw 125, so the Devils were looking to push the envelope in the last inning.
“Every time he takes the mound our team is confident,” Anthony said. “He’s really done a special job. I think down the road, it may take years from now, but I think people will realize some of the accomplishments he has made.”
“The adrenaline just kept me going,” Larimer admitted. “Once we got above seven innings and I kept going eight, nine, 10, I knew every time I went out that I just had to keep doing it and do everything I can to help my team win.”
The Devils looked to win in regulation by scoring three runs in the second inning when they collected five hits while sending eight batters to the plate. But the Bluejays would not go away quietly as they matched the Devils with a three spot in the fourth inning thanks to four hits and two errors by the Devils to tie the game at 3-3.
“I can’t really put it into words; it hasn’t set in yet,” Devils senior Jeep DiCioccio said. “We have worked so hard for this since back in December. It’s unbelievable what this group has accomplished.”
“I’m shocked, I’m filled with emotions,” Larimer added. “To do this four times in a row, this is unbelievable. This doesn’t happen very often. And to be able to do it is a once in a lifetime thing.”
“I’ve been with Western Reserve for eight years, and we have won this district six out of the eight years. This year was challenging because we knew Jackson-Milton plays us tough every time, they have a good ball team and we knew it would be like this. Our kids, I’m really, really proud of them,” Anthony said.
WR–Wyatt Larimer wp (11IP, 8K, 0BB) and Ryan Slavin
JM–Eric Ostrowski (8.1IP, 4K, 0BB), Sebastian Lay lp (2IP, 1K, 0BB) and Noah Laster