PINE GROVE – It takes seven innings for a team to win a high school baseball game.
Unfortunately for the Marian Colts, it only took one inning to essentially lose the game.
The fourth-seeded Colts outplayed the top-seeded Tri-Valley Bulldogs for six-and-a-half innings in their District 11 A semi-final baseball game Thursday night. However, it was that one poor half-inning that killed their upset chances in the end. Ty Waizenegger walk-off single in the bottom of the seventh was the dagger, as the Bulldogs held off the Colts 7-6 to advance to the district final next week.
"I am so proud of these kids," said Marian manager Jeff Nietz. "I don't think anybody here thought this game was going to be like this. But we kept telling them the last few days that they belong here. You can battle and you can play with this team.
"It is just one of those things where Tri-Valley is capable of putting up a lot of runs. They have a very explosive offense and we knew that. I thought Luke (Stawick) kept them off balance for the first couple of innings and then got a little tight in the third. That's when everything went south."
Marian took a 2-0 lead into the bottom of the third and were executing well. With two outs in the first, John Sullivan singled and was driven in on Anthony Pilla's double one batter later for a big two-out run.
Then in the third, Mike Cataldo singled to lead off the inning. He stole second and was advanced to third following a sacrifice bunt from Frank Nietz. Sullivan then plated the run on a groundout.
Marian starter Luke Stawick cruised through the first two innings, but fell apart in the third due to some self-inflicted trouble. Stawick walked three batters in the inning – all of which eventually came around to score. Two of those walks also came with the bases loaded. A RBI-single from Tri-Valley's Buddy Wehry drove in the sixth run of the inning and chased Stawick from the game.
Still, the Colts did not wilt from the big inning. They chipped away at the Bulldog lead by scoring a run in the fourth on a RBI-single from Cataldo.
Marian would then tie the game in the fifth thanks to two errors by Tri-Valley. Ron Kozar's third single of the game plated Zack Motil and knotted the score at six. At that point it became a whole new ballgame.
"These kids have been a team that has not let things get to them all year long," said Nietz on his team's ability to battle back. "They have, for the most part, responded. I thought today coming in here that they were so focused that short of a ten-run first inning that they were going to stay with (Tri-Valley) and would battle for the entire game."
The Colts dodged some trouble in the sixth. Nick Kweder loaded the bases with one out via two singles and a walk, but got the next two batters to pop out to the catcher and ground out to second to end the inning.
Sadly, Marian couldn't dodge more trouble in the seventh. The Bulldogs' Kyle Bair walked to leadoff the inning and eventually took second on a botched pick-off attempt. He then took third on a groundout before Waizenegger drove a 2-2 pitch into centerfield for the game-ender.
The Colts end their season with a 12-10 record. For Nietz, it was a season in which his players showed a lot of heart.
"I can go out on a limb and say that we probably overachieved this year," Nietz said. "We lost a ton of seniors from last year's team, but these guys came out and gelled as a team. We are just really proud of the effort they gave. We had a few one-run games and we got tattooed a couple of games, but they never got down on themselves. Tonight was just a testimony to the effort that they have put into this entire season."
Marian 101 130 0 – 6 10 2
Tri-Valley 006 000 1 – 7 9 2
Stawick, Kweder (3) and Kozar; Wehry, Spickler (5) and Bair. W – Spickler. L – Kweder.