Western Reserve slips past Jackson-Milton

STRUTHERS — With the bases loaded in the bottom of the 11th, Dom Velasquez’s suicide bunt scored Wyatt Larimer, lifting Western Reserve to their fourth straight Division IV district championship with a 4-3 win over Jackson-Milton at Cene Park on Thursday night.

“The first goal we had at the beginning of the season was get back to districts and let it go from there,” Larimer said. “To do it four times in a row, when that doesn’t happen very often, is awesome to do it.”

Larimer reached base with a one-out single to get something going for the Blue Devils in the fourth inning of extra baseball. With clean-up hitter Jeep DiCioccio at the plate, Larimer stole second base and advanced to third after the throw by catcher Noah Laster sailed to center field for the seventh Blue Jay error of the night.

Jackson-Milton elected to intentionally walk DiCioccio and Justin Ciccone to load the bases to cause a force out at each base, but the gamble didn’t pay off with Velasquez laying down a well-executed squeeze play for the game-winning RBI.

“It came down to the call at the end, and we just went for it,” Reserve coach Ed Anthony said. “It worked out in our favor. It could’ve went ether way, but thank god it went our way.”

Larimer picked up the win on the mound, going all 11 innings, striking out nine while not allowing a walk.

“That’s the longest I’ve ever went in my life,” said Larimer as he held the district championship trophy. “Right now the adrenaline is still going, so I’m not feeling much right now, but I’m sure once we get back on the bus I’m going to feel some aches.”

Eric Ostrowski came in relief after the second inning but was unfortunate to pick up the loss. He tossed 8 1/3 innings before giving up the lone run.

Western Reserve struck first with an RBI single by Caleb Quinn in the bottom of the second. Reserve was able to tack on two more runs in the inning for a 3-0 lead.

Two innings later Jackson-Milton responded with a three-run inning of its own thanks to a little help by the Blue Devils.

After an RBI single by Jonathon Voland, the Blue Jays found themselves with runners on second and third before a throwing error by Larimer allowed both runners to score to tie the game up at three.

Both teams struggled to get anything going offensively in the pitching-dominant game.

Although there were a combined double-digit errors on the night, Western Reserve shortstop Ryan Demsky flashed the leather all night.

“They kept hitting the ball to me, and I knew I had to make plays for my team to help Wyatt out with him pitching great,” Demsky said.

He was responsible for 10 outs on the night, including a crucial double play to end the top of the 10th.

The Blue Devils look to carry the momentum into the regional semifinal, when they take on Dalton May 25 at Pipe Yard Stadium in Lorain.

“I can’t wait to get back to the Pipe Yards that’s for sure,” a smiling Larimer said.