Baseball Tigers suffer heartbreak in quarterfinals

By: 
Theo Tate

Wellsville-Middletown pitcher Dylan Alsop delivers a pitch to a Leeton batter in the bottom of the first in a Class 1 quarterfinal game at Leeton High School. Alsop and the Tigers fell 9-8 in nine innings. THEO TATE PHOTO

The Wellsville-Middletown Tigers had an opportunity to earn a trip to the Class 1 Final Four when they took on the Leeton Bulldogs in a quarterfinal game on May 26 at Leeton High School.

All they needed to do was to get one out.

But the Tigers never got that out. They ended up leaving Leeton with a loss.

W-M’s season ended in heartbreaking fashion with a 9-8 loss to the Bulldogs in nine innings. The game ended after Leeton senior Reed Manley was hit by a pitch from W-M senior Clayton Ebers with the bases loaded and nobody out.

Ebers had to be consoled by his coaches and teammates after the game. Two months ago, his high school basketball career ended on a crushing note as W-M lost to Salisbury in double overtime in a Class 2 quarterfinal game.

“He’s a senior,” W-M coach Brandon Moeller said. “It’s the last thing he’s going to do for Wellsville-Middletown. He’s the heart and pride of the baseball and basketball programs since he’s been here. I told him I love him and he’s going to go on to bigger and better things in his life. He has settled for so much success in his life. I basically told him, ‘Don’t forget about me when you become famous.’ ”

The W-M baseball team finished its season at 11-10. The Tigers advanced to the quarterfinals with a 10-0 victory over Glasgow on May 24 at Battle High School in Columbia. They beat Community R-6 14-6 in the District 12 title game on May 19.

“I’m really proud of our kids,” Moeller said. “We hit that rough patch in the middle of the season. We went 2-8 in 10 games. From that point on, I challenged the kids that whatever happened earlier in the year doesn’t matter. What happens in the postseason is all that matters.”

Leeton, located 150 miles west of Wellsville, advanced to its first Final Four since 1990. The Bulldogs won their first district title since 2006 after beating Concordia in the District 10 finals on May 21.

Leeton coach Brett Snyder applauded the Tigers’ effort.

“I have nothing but praise for that team,” Snyder said. “They fought just as hard as we did and they deserved just as much as we did to be where we’re at. They played a great game. There’s nothing to be ashamed of.”

The Tigers came back from a 4-0 deficit to take a 6-4 lead into the bottom of the sixth. Leeton came back to score a pair of runs in that inning to tie the game at 6-6.

An RBI double by W-M center fielder Jacob Hollensteiner and an RBI groundout by sophomore left fielder Keaton Marshall in the top of the eighth gave W-M an 8-6 lead.

But with two outs in the bottom of the eighth, Leeton rallied to tie the game at 8-8. W-M senior center fielder Jacob Hollensteiner misplayed a fly ball hit by Leeton sophomore Justin Floyd, forcing Manley to score from second. Then, senior Kyle Wilson drove home Floyd on a double to center to tie the game.

W-M sophomore Mason Guzy, who came in relief for Dylan Alsop in the bottom of the sixth, gave up a single and a walk to the first two Leeton batters in the bottom of the ninth before Ebers took over on the mound. Ebers gave up a bunt single by Ethan Driskill to load the bases before hitting Manley to end the game.

The Tigers scored three runs in the top of the fourth on a balk, an RBI single by sophomore catcher C.J. Curd and a bases loaded walk by senior infielder Bekah Sewell.

W-M added two more runs in the fifth on an RBI double by sophomore pitcher/shortstop Dylan Alsop and a balk to take a 5-4 lead. The Tigers extended the lead to 6-4 on an RBI single by Alsop in the sixth.

With the win, Leeton ended the high school baseball careers of Ebers, Hollensteiner, Sewell, Layton Maskey, Jared Brinegar and Wyatt Cassidy.

W-M had numerous fans making the long trip to Leeton. Marshall said he was pleased with the support.

“They’re still out here because they love their community,” he said. “They want to see their high school do good and succeed throughout life.”

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