Canton’s Wesneski unbeaten on the mound

Garrett Wesneski opened last year’s football season playing quarterback. A week later, he was playing along the offensive line and becoming one of the Northern Tier League’s leading tacklers. A few months later, Wesneski reached states as a wrestler.

One gets the point. This is a tough athlete.

So even though Wesneski had yet to throw a complete game prior to Thursday’s Class A state quarterfinal against Calvary Christian, no one should have doubted whether he could last all seven innings. Wesneski did so with gusto, throwing a complete-game six-hitter and striking out nine while also going 2 for 2 with a second-inning home run as Canton won, 3-1.

“He showed a lot of guts and a lot of heart,” Canton coach Bob Rockwell said. ” I knew he could. He’s tough. He’s worked his way into it. Because of wrestling he had a late start pitching, but he’s a big kid and he’s done it in years past.”

Wesneski has done it better than he has ever before during this historic season. The junior right-hander is 10-0 and is a big reason Canton (22-2) is playing in Monday’s state semifinals at Bloomsburg University against District 2 Old Forge. The three-sport athlete helped the Warriors capture their first district championship 10 days ago and now is hoping to provide the ultimate capper to a terrific athletic year.

Wesneski is just one of many players who has shined throughout the season and he has done some of his best work in the biggest games. Wesneski delivered a walk-off double in an eight-inning district semifinal win over Muncy, pitched five strong innings to get the win against defending champion Montgomery in the final and is 5 for 6 in two state playoff games.

He likes playing on the big stage and Wesneski has commanded attention thus far. That was especially true Thursday against the District 1 champions. Wesneski allowed only a sixth-inning run, retired the side in order in the seventh and reached base three times as Canton again made history.

“He hit his spots and he challenged them and he rose to the occasion in that last inning when he had to,” Rockwell said. “That’s his first home run and he’s starting to swing the bat better and better than he has all year long.”

Wesneski has combined with Chase Pepper to give Canton one of the state’s premier pitching duos. Throughout the season, Rockwell and assistant coach Lyle Wesneski have split the innings between them each game. In most Warrior games, Wesneski or Pepper started and the other came in to finish. That was the plan Thursday too but Wesneski was so good there was no way Rockwell could take the ball away.

“He told me it was my game and I told him all week, ‘what you think about going all seven because I didn’t go all seven all year,” Wesneski said. “He was like, ‘you’re a bulldog.’ He asked me if I wanted to go and I said yeah. I like to have the ball in my hands.”

A year ago, Wesneski came on strong as the season progressed, going 5-2 while helping Canton reach the district final. Despite the late start because of his extended wrestling season, Wesneski had no trouble picking up where he left off, earning the win in Canton’s first three games, including when he threw a two-hitter against Wyalusing.

No area pitcher has won more games than Wesneski and he has allowed only four runs in 17 postseason innings.

“We always have faith in Garrett,” shortstop Wes Moore said following the district championship. “He can put it in there and we can help him out and make plays behind him.”

While he has gained more publicity for his pitching, Wesneski also has come up big offensively. He has increased his batting average 34 points during the postseason and his second-inning home run against Calvary Christian helped give the Warriors an early-game spark. Had it not been for his clutch hit against Muncy, Canton might not even have been playing that game.

Muncy pitcher Kenny Koch showed why he is one of the district’s best in the that semifinal game that was tied 1-1 in the bottom of the eighth. After Josiah Bardo, who opened the year with an 11-game hitting streak, made the inning’s first out, Wesneski made him a promise. Connor Route walked a batter later and Wesneski then made good on those words.

Wesneski crushed a deep liner into a stiff wind toward the Bowman Field wall in right field. Route scored the winning run easily and Canton has not stopped since.

“Everyone showed good character. If somebody got out the next person was patting them on the back and saying, ‘I’ve got you’,'” Wesneski said. “Josiah was on fire all year and I told him in the dugout I was going to pick him up and I did for him just like Chase picked me up pitching earlier in the game.”

Thursday, Wesneski delivered his best pick-me up performance yet. And now he and his teammates share the same desire Wesneski did pitching.

They want to go the distance.