Canton wins its first PIAA?game

The hardest ball Connor Route hit resulted in a lineout double play. His three other at-bats resulted in three hits and four RBIs.

And some more Canton history.

Route went 3 for 4 with a double and four RBIs while Chase Pepper threw five scoreless innings as Canton routed Lancaster County Christian, 8-1 Monday at Bowman Field in its Class A state tournament debut. The Warriors (21-2) captured their first district championship last Wednesday and can now add first state tournament win to their growing resume.

“Baseball is a funny game,” Route said. “Sometimes you hit the ball hard three times and get out three times and I hit the ball terrible and got four RBIs.”

Canton advanced to Thursday’s state quarterfinals and will play either District 12 champion GAMP or District 1 champion Calvary Christian. That game was rained out Monday.

The Warriors played well in all facets yesterday, collecting 12 hits, receiving good pitching and playing error-less defense while turning two double plays. Route put Canton ahead to stay in the first inning, hitting a RBI bloop single before Josiah Bardo added a two-out RBI single that made it 2-0.

Route found a hole in right field an inning later and blooped in his second RBI single before Garrett Wesneski added a RBI single a batter later. Just like that, Canton led a team that reached last year’s state semifinals, 4-0.

“We got some early breaks and capitalized and our pitching carried us through,” Canton coach Bob Rockwell said. “We got a couple bloopers that hadn’t been falling that fell today. That helps out.”

Route was the main benefactor of those bloopers before driving a two-run, fourth-inning double that highlighted a three-run rally as Canton broke open the game. Route might have classified his swings as terrible but they were effective.

In the simplest terms, Route hit the balls where the fielders were not. There are no style points in this game.

“I got very lucky. All those hits could have gone either way,” Route said. “They could have been outs, but they hit the right spots and I got RBIs.”

Canton continued hitting well throughout the lineup. Emmett Watson scored three runs from the lead-off position while Tanner Machmer went 2 for 2 with a RBI and reached base three times from the No. 9 spot.

Machmer put Canton ahead 8-0 in the fifth inning, belting a RBI single.

“I was able to get the bat on the ball and did what I had to do to come through,” Machmer said. “We feel like everyone on this team can contribute and everybody does.”

Pepper scattered six hits in his five innings and was outstanding whenever LCC (12-7) put runners on base. Pepper struck out seven and twice ended innings with consecutive strikeouts when the Lions had two runners on and one out.

So effective was Pepper that no Lion reached third against him. LCC did load the bases against reliever John Bowman in the sixth inning but the sophomore struck out the side and came back from a 3-0 count to record an inning-ending strikeout with the bases loaded.

Wesneski (3 for 4) closed the game in the seventh and struck out two. Together, he, Bowman and Pepper struck out 12. Just as important, all three remained eligible to pitch in Thursday’s state quarterfinals.

“It couldn’t have worked out better,” Rockwell said. “We wanted to get Bowman some innings because we feel like we might need him if we’re going to make a run. He came back strong and did a good job.”

Wesneski slightly pumped his fist after recording a game-ending strikeout, but there was no big Canton celebration. There is more work to do and the Warriors are not satisfied.

“We are feeling good and confident,” Machmer said. “We just want to keep everything going.”

LCC000 000 1-1 8 4

Canton220 310 x-8 12 0

Kyle Ebersole, Josh Mayer (2), Jensen King (5) and Blake Petersheim. Chase Pepper, John Bowman (6), Garrett Wesneski (7) and Travis Butcher. W-Pepper, (7-2). L-Ebersole.

Top LCC hitters: Mayer 2-4; Shane Huber 2-3, 2B; Josh Brubaker 3-4, 3B, RBI. Top Canton hitters: Connor Route 3-4, 2B, 4 RBI; Emmett Watson 1-3, 3 R; Wesneski 3-4, RBI; Tanner Machmer 2-2, RBI, R; Josiah Bardo 1-3, RBI.

Records: Canton 21-2. LCC 12-7.