SLIPPERY ROCK - All season long, Lakeview's baseball team had overwhelmed the majority of its opponents with a high-potent offense that seemed to take no prisoners.
But, when the Sailors' needed their offense the most, it came up short and was unable to fully cash in on a bases-loaded, no-out situation in the top of the seventh inning, leading a 7-6 loss to Sharpsville on Monday in the District 10 Class 2A Championship at Slippery Rock University's Jack Critchfield Park.
In a back-and-forth contest that saw both the Blue Devils (12-10) and the Sailors sport mulitple-run advantages, the game eventually boiled down to the top of the seventh where Lakeview needed two runs to tie and three to retake the lead after trailing 7-5 through six frames.
The Sailors put the first three batters on in the seventh as Zack Doddo and Brandon Partridge sandwiched a pair of walks around a single by starting pitcher Trent Milliren. But, things started to come undone as Sharpsville relief pitcher Cameron Williams struck out J.P. McGee for the first out.
Noah Burke then came to the plate and hit a high popup in foul territory behind home plate that Williams dove to catch for the second out. But, with no one covering home plate, courtesy runner Kendall Crocker sprinted home to trim the deficit to 7-6. However, that would be all the offense the Sailors could muster as Williams got Jared Obreza to fly out to center to end the game and give the Blue Devils the D-10 title.
"We didn't get the big hit when we needed it," Lakeview coach Bill Beith said. "We had a chance to kind of blow the game open a little bit there and we didn't take advantage of it."
Lakeview also hurt itself in the field as four errors in the first three frames led to Sharpsville taking a 2-0 lead.
The Sailors were also in a funk offensively at the start as they mustered only one hit - a single by Devin Bobbitt - in the first three stanzas. But, Lakeview found its mojo in the fourth, fifth and sixth frames and plated five runs to take a 5-3 advantage.
Lakeview put three runs across in the fourth as Milliren stroked a run-scoring double and McGee followed two batters later with a two-run single. The Sailors got a run in the fifth as Kyle Uber led off with a single, and after a walk and a hit-batsman, he came in to score on a wild pitch. In the sixth, Burke led off with a single and stole second. After a strikeout, Uber cracked a single to plate Burke.
Sharpsville used two more errors by the Sailors to score a run in the fifth before their offense came alive with four runs in the sixth to take the lead for good.
Kaleb Gorichky led off with a single and Brock Lenzi followed with a walk to set the table. Three batters later, Jackson Doyle poked a single through the infield to plate Gorichky and leadoff hitter Max Messett followed with a two-run triple to the warning track in right field to score both Lenzi and Doyle for a 6-5 lead. Messett then came in to score what proved to be the deciding run on a wild pitch.
"It's disappointing because one of the strengths we've had all year is our defense and our defense let us down today," Beith said. "I don't know if it was the sun, the significance of the moment or adrenaline, but we didn't make the plays. I thought Trent did a heck of a job pitching, we just didn't play good defense behind him."
The good news is that the Sailors still advance to the PIAA playoffs and they will face the top seed out of District 7 on Monday at a site and time to be determined.
"We are still playing," Beith said. "It's been a goal of ours every year to make the state playoffs and this is the first time we've done that since I've been the coach. We will still be playing baseball in June and we are one of only two teams in Class 2A in D-10 that will be doing that."