Canton tops Sayre to reach district final
CANTON - All season long, Canton coach Bob Rockwell has been keeping an eye out for any pitching help he can find.
Late in the season, he brought up sophomore Chase Pepper and threw him out their in the District IV, Class A baseball semi-final Saturday with all the confidence in the world.
And Pepper came through.
The young hurler struck out eight while allowing just four hits, two walks and one earned run in seven hot innings of work to get the 5-1 win.
"It felt pretty good," Pepper said. "It was hot all day and it got arm warm all day. It actually helped my arm a lot, the sun just kept my arm going."
When he found out that he was starting Pepper quickly got himself prepared.
"I just listened to good music," he explained.
"Chase hit his spots," Rockwell said. "We had an idea where we wanted to throw them and Chase executed his pitches. It didn't seem like anything bothered him; he was a cool character today."
The veteran coach saw the potential at a JV tournament during the year.
"That's where we knew we had him," Rockwell remarked. "That just goes to show you how important it is. That's where we found he could do what he did today."
It was a team effort on offense for the Warriors, led by Emmett Watson.
Watson went 1-for-3 with an RBI and three runs scored.
"I just did my job," he said. "I got on base when I could and he ran smart base running. It felt real good to do it here at Bowman Field."
Ryan Ball went 1-for-1 with 2-RBI and a run scored while Scott Rockwell, Garrett Wesneski, Chase Pepper and Ben Pepper all had hits.
Derek Wilcox added an RBI while Rockwell scored a run.
Coach Rockwell was pleased to see everybody getting in on the action.
"Every boy on the team had something to do with the win," he said. "Whether it was a sacrifice bunt or moving the runner up, whatever it may be and that's a good feeling. It's a good team win."
He credits their patience at the plate.
"They seem to know the strikezone and they got to (Sayre's Jared Donovan) late," Coach Rockwell said. "And it was a hot day, anybody's bound to tire it a little bit."
Donovan scored the loss in 5 1/3-innings. The senior struggled with his control most of the day, hitting four batters and walking six. He finished with six hits and five earned runs while striking out one.
Donovan had trouble with the loose gravel on the mound and struggled to plant when he delivered.
"He was slipping when he was planting and that's what he said caused a couple of those hit batters," Pack said. "I understand that."
The grounds crew came in and cleared everything out.
"He did a lot better after that whole was cleared out," Pack explained. "He just gave it everything he had."
Alex Lyons relieved him for the final 2/3-inning.
Nick Skerpon had a strong day at the plate for the Redskins, going 2-for-3 with a double and triple while scoring their only run. Lyons had the RBI.
Only two other Redskins had hits, though: Nate Williams and Joe Kozemko.
"What hurt us the most was on the base paths," Sayre coach Jon Pack said. "We had two really big running mistakes that took us out of rallies. Four hits, one run kind of speaks for itself but we didn't do the little things today to come out on top."
The Redskins got something going early as Nate Williams reached on an error in the top of the first. He was sacrificed to second but back to back strikeouts by Canton pitcher Chase Pepper ended the threat.
In the bottom half of the inning, Donovan hit the first two Canton players he saw to put runners on first and second with no outs.
A sacrifice moved them over to third and second but the Redskins got out of the inning with back to back groundouts.
Sayre failed to threaten in the top half of the second but Canton once again was knocking at the door.
With one out Wes Moore was hit by Donovan followed by a walk to Derek Wilcox put runners on first and second. They each moved up a base on a wild pitch but the Redskins got out of the inning as Ben Pepper flew out and Scott Rockwell grounded out.
Sayre went down 1-2-3 in the top of the third.
The Warriors finally got one across in the bottom half of the inning. Emmett Watson reached on a fielder's choice then moved to second on a ground out. With two outs Ryan Ball hit a single into right that scored Watson to put Canton up 1-0.
"It got us all fired up," Watson said about the run. "You're finally on the board, you're getting some momentum and it brings the team up and your kind of playing better."
Pepper was happy to get out on top finally.
"That felt really good," Pepper said.
Sayre responded in the top of the fourth as Nick Skerpon led off with a triple. Alex Lyons brought him in on a sacrifice fly to knot things up at 1-1.
The Redskins threatened again in the top of the fifth when with two outs, Brad Felt walked then stole second. Nate Williams hit a short bloop in the infield that Rockwell mis-handled.
Felt tried to take home on the play but Rockwell threw him out at the plate to preserve the tie.
Canton then came back in the bottom half of the inning as Watson reached on a one-out walk. After a fly out Ball walked followed by Chase Pepper knocking Watson in with an RBI single. Moore and Wilcox then drew back to back walks to bring Ball in and give the Warriors a 3-0 lead.
Skerpon gave Sayre a spark again in the top of the sixth. This time he blooped one into shallow right-center and turned it into a double with aggressive base running.
However, he was caught stealing third and the rally ended.
Canton tacked on two more runs in the bottom half of the inning.
Rockwell led off with a single then took second on an overthrow. He was sacrificed over then scored on a Watson single. Garrett Wesneski followed that up with a single himself to put runners on the corners.
That's when Donovan went out and Lyons came in.
On the next at bat Ball popped one out deep enough into right field to score Watson and make it 5-1.
"It just builds to the momentum," Watson said about the runs. "To keep building and building. All of its contagious to your team because once one guy starts doing well the rest of the team just follows along and does its best."
In top of the half of the final inning Joe Kozemko hit a one out single to keep Sayre's hopes alive but Pepper was able to get the next two batters out and secure the win.
"It feels good, we deserve it," Pepper said about moving on to the championship game.
"It feels great," added Watson. "We were here my freshman year and unfortunately lost to Sayre so its always nice to get win against Sayre. I'm just pumped up for the championship game and hopefully we do our best."
While Canton moves on Sayre heads home, defeated but not dejected.
Looking back Pack felt that they had a successful season.
"We only had five losses in the regular season, that's a pretty good season," he said. "We made a heck of a comeback on Tuesday to get this far. I just told the kids nothing to hold your head about. Overall a good season, it hurts being on this side of a game like this but the kids coming back hopefully can learn and grow from it we'll find ourselves back here again next year."
Canton will now face the winner of Montgomery and Sullivan County. The two teams were supposed to follow Canton and Sayre but were rained out and will be postponed until 4 p.m. Tuesday at Logue Field in Williamsport. The Class A championship game will be at Bowman Field Wednesday with a 4:30 p.m. start.
Coach Rockwell is just happy that his seniors get another shot at a district title.
"It's been four straight years in the district semis," he said. "Hopefully we can turn the corner on this one. That would be nice."