Canton beats Muncy in 9

Garrett Wesneski did not live the exact dream. The last few years, he dreamed of slamming a two-out walk-off hit that lifted Canton to a dramatic playoff win at Bowman Field.

In reality, he did it with one out. But Wesneski is not being picky. This will do just fine.

Wesneski belted a one-out, walk-off double Saturday at Bowman Field, scoring Connor Route from first while lifting Canton to a thrilling 2-1, 8-inning District 4 Class A semifinal win over Muncy. The top-seeded Warriors (19-2) advanced to Wednesday’s final and face defending champion Montgomery in a rematch of last year’s championship.

“I love it. My dad (assistant coach Lyle Wesneski) has coached for so long and they’ve been here so many years and I thought it was the best feeling ever being out there playing,” Wesneski said. “To have the dream happen is pretty great.”

Wesneski’s hit was only the seventh combined by the two teams in a game that featured spectacular pitching and error-less defense. Wesneski and reliever Chase Pepper combined on a two-hitter and Pepper threw four hitless innings to earn the win. Kenny Koch was brilliant for Muncy, throwing a five-hitter, striking out eight and giving the Indians (12-9) every chance to pull the upset.

Muncy threatened several times over the final six innings, but Wesneski and Pepper stifled all the rallies and after Connor Route drew a one-out walk in the eighth, Wesneski had his coveted opportunity to play the hero. After taking a strike, Wesneski slammed a pitch up and away deep into right field, despite going into a stiff wind that knocked balls back all day.

Wesneski’s drive sailed through the wind and over the right fielder’s head as Route made a mad dash for home. As Wesneski rounded second Route scored and Canton earned its fourth championship appearance in five years.

“I like to be up in those situations. I like the big games. I just feel like I overall play better,” Wesneski said. “That was a good team win. Everybody showed good character.”

“We had the right man at the right time,” Canton coach Bob Rockwell said. “He delivered big for us.”

Canton overcame the loss of leadoff man Emmett Watson, leading the team in RBIs while hitting .468, in the first inning when he was hit on the wrist by a pitch. That not only left an offensive void, but forced Canton to scramble its defense. Still, the Warriors did not make any errors and catcher Travis Butcher came up big, taking away Muncy’s running game and not letting any balls get past him when Muncy had runners on third. Reserve Tim Bassett nearly hit a walk-off, seventh-inning double but center fielder T.J. Moyle made a nice catch.

The Indians left nine runners on base, seven after Erik Springer’s second-inning RBI single tied the game 1-1. Third baseman Tanner Machmer threw a runner out at home in that second inning and Wesneski and Pepper left runners on third in the fourth and eighth innings.

Muncy put runners on first and third in the eighth, courtesy of Dawson Fox and Jeff Scott walks. Troy Hembury hit a grounder up the middle that looked like it would be an RBI hit, but shortstop Wes Moore made a nice play behind second base and flipped to second for an inning-ending fielder’s choice.

“We executed well and did the things we wanted to, but we just couldn’t get that 2-out hit to put the pressure on them,” Muncy coach Chris Persing said. “It’s tough. We obviously came here to win, but the kids have to hold their heads high because they played a good game. Sometimes it just doesn’t go your way.”

Koch allowed a first-inning run when Wesneski hit a RBI grounder after Watson was hit by a pitch and Josiah Bardo walked. He was nearly untouchable until the eighth inning from that point on. The sophomore located his pitches well, kept Canton off-balance and stymied an offense that has scored runs in bunches at times.

Koch, who took his third loss when allowing five hits or fewer and striking out eight or more, did not let a Canton runner reach third from the second through seventh innings. Only two runners reached second during that time.

“He threw a gem,” Persing said. “They’re 19-2 for a reason and he settled in after the first inning and hit his spots and let his defense make plays and made big pitches when he had to.”

So did Wesneski and Pepper. Wesneski allowed just two hits in four innings while striking out five. He recorded his fifth strikeout against his final batter in the fourth, doing so with the go-ahead runner on third.

Pepper was terrific as well, throwing four hitless innings and striking out five. Pepper and Wesneski have won 13 combined games this season and, together, did not allow a hit after the second inning.

“We’ve been doing that all year. We’ve had very few complete games,” Rockwell said. “We’ve been trying to save arms and it’s working. It’s a change of pace for the other team and we did basically the same thing we’ve done all year and it seemed to work.”

Muncy 010 000 00-1 2 0

Canton 100 000 01-2 5 0

Kenny Koch and Dawson Fox. Garrett Wesneski, Chase Pepper (5) and Travis Butcher. W-Pepper, (7-2). L-Koch, (3-4).

Top Muncy hitters: Erik Springer 1-2, RBI; Fox 1-3. Top Canton hitters: Wesneski 1-3, 3B, 2 RBI; Connor Route 1-3, R; T. Route 1-3, 2B.

Records: Canton 19-2. Muncy 12-9.