New Athens can't hang on to late lead, loses to Webber in extra innings

News-DemocratJune 6, 2014 

These are the seniors from the New Athens High School boys baseball team — Alec Wade, Nick Ozier, Charlie Rousan, Tyler Meyer and Tyler Brandenburger.

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— Failing to cash in on numerous scoring chances Friday eventually caught up to the New Athens Yellow Jackets at the Class 1A state baseball tournament.

Leaving 15 men on base and unable to take full advantage of nine walks, six errors and a 4-1 lead in the seventh, the Yellow Jackets lost a 5-4 heartbreaker in 10 innings to Webber on Chris Bush's RBI infield single.

"When we got down 4-1, I said they're going to have to knock us out," said Webber coach Sam Root, whose team stranded 17 runners. "We're going to battle to that last strike. We have no quit in us now, you can see it in our kids. We're here, we've never been here before

"You have nothing to lose. There's no pressure on us right now."

Trailing 4-1 in the sixth inning, Webber (23-7) battled back to tie it with three runs in the top of the seventh and then won it with a run in the 10th.

Logan Ganieany doubled leading off the top of the 10th and scored from third on an infield single deep into the hole at short by Bush.

New Athens (19-18) will play Argenta-Oreana in the third place game at 9 a.m. Saturday.

The Yellow Jackets left the bases loaded in the ninth inning and had two runners thrown out at the plate. Webber won despite committing six errors and walking nine as the teams combined for 10 errors overall.

"They're going to be talking about this one for the next 20 years in New Athens," New Athens coach Scott Wine predicted, and he's probably right. "It came down to ... we left 15 runners on base if my scorekeeper's numbers were correct, so we had all the chances in the world.

"You could point to a lot of different things when you lose a one-run game in extra innings. The bottom line is we leave 15 runners on base."

Webber senior right-hander Jordan Wheeler (6-4) threw all 10 innings to get the win, throwing 175 pitches in the process while walking nine and striking out six.

"Not saying he couldn't get one out tomorrow or something, but pretty much this was the last time he's throwing," Root said of Wheeler, who missed about a month with a shoulder injury from playing dodge ball at school. "Somebody's missing out on him, I guarantee it. But right now he has no plans to go pitch next year, so this is his last pitch."

Reliever Ryan Reuss (4-2) took the loss for New Athens, allowing four hits and two runs in four innings.

Jimmy Kiefer was 2-for-2 with two RBIs for New Athens and understood the opportunity that was in front of his team.

"(With) timely hitting, we'd probably be going to the title game," he said. "But things happen, you've just got to put it behind you and get the next one."

With Wheeler struggling with his control early, New Athens grabbed a 2-0 lead in the third inning on a two-run single by Jimmy Kiefer.

The Yellow Jackets also threatened in the first, but Charlie Rousan was gunned out on a close play at the plate on the back end of a double steal.

Webber cut the deficit to 2-1 in the fifth when Zane Austin scored on a throwing error by second baseman Travis Zapfe.

New Athens was seemingly in control after an RBI single by Tyler Brandenburger and sacrifice fly by starting pitcher Brandon Contratto in the sixth moved the lead to 4-1. In the top of the sixth, New Athens third baseman Luke Mueller saved a run with a diving stop of a hot line drive by Logan Ganieany.

Contratto was replaced by Reuss after allowing back-to-back singles leading off the top of the seventh. Reuss walked Wheeler to load the bass and Bush followed with a two-run single.

Austin was up with the bases loaded, two outs and a 3-2 count in the seventh and hit a hard ground ball that Nick Ozier couldn't handle as the tying run scored.

The Yellow Jackets had the bases loaded and no outs in the bottom of the seventh and still failed to score. With Root moving one of his outfielders to the infield, leaving the other two to cover the entire outfield, the strategy paid off.

Courtesy runner Wyatt Hespen was thrown out at the plate trying to score from third on Reuss' fly ball to right. Dylan Toedte also flied out for the third out.

"First of all that's an accurate throw, that's a heck of a job by our catcher," Root said. "We had to try something. That's something we've worked on obviously and we've done before, because you're at their mercy."

New Athens also had the bases loaded with two outs in the ninth and Wheeler struck out Toedte.

Contact reporter Norm Sanders at 239-2454, nsanders@bnd.com or follow him on Twitter: @NormSanders

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