ST. MARYS — The Elk-McKean Junior League All-Star baseball team lived to play another day Wednesday, as it knocked off St. Marys, 9-1, at Memorial Park to force the if-necessary title game for the District 10 championship.
Elk-McKean jumped out to an early 2-0 with a pair of runs in the bottom of the second, as that ultimately proved to be enough offense to hand St. Marys its first loss of the tournament.
St. Marys, which beat Elk-McKean 7-6 in the winners’ bracket final on Saturday, struggled to get its offense going Wednesday. St. Marys managed just three hits against the Elk-McKean duo of Aiden Zimmerman and Ethan Wells.
St. Marys hitters took a a lot of pitches in the early part of the game, a strategy the team appeared to entered the game with as a way to pile up the pitch counts against Zimmerman and Wells.
Elk-McKean elected to pull Zimmerman after just 35 pitches in the second inning while holding a 2-0 lead — a move that paid off as it will now have its No. 1 pitcher available for the winner-take-all title game Friday on its home field.
Wells came on with one out and two on the second and proceeded to walk the bases loaded before recording back-to-back strikeouts top end the inning and keep it a 2-0 game.
He went to throw 5 2/3 strong innings of relief, allowing one earned run on three hits while striking out five and walking five. Wells also enjoyed a big day at the plate, as he went 2-for-3 and knocked in five of his team’s nine runs.
Teammates Harley Morris and Camron Marciniak also went 2-for-3, with Morris scoring twice and Marciniak three times in the posteason-saving victory.
St. Marys got a one-out walk from Christian Coudriet in the top of the first, but otherwise went down quietly against Zimmerman.
Elk-McKean then seized the lead with a pair of runs in the bottom half of the inning against St. Marys starter Conner Straub.
Harley Morris just beat out an infield single to open the inning, then promptly stole second. He took third on a groundout before Zimmerman drew a walk.
Wells then put down a safety squeeze that scored Morris. Wells reached on the play when the ball was dropped — a miscue that allowed Zimmerman to score during some confusion on the play.
Wells had taken a few steps towards second, then was tagged as he was headed back to first. He was initially called safe but ran off the field thinking he was out. After a conference, Wells was ruled out and that both runs that scored stood, making it 2-0.
The score stayed that way until the bottom of the third when Elk-McKean tacked on a run.
Morris led off the inning with a single but was thrown out stealing second. Marciniak followed with a single of his own and swiped second becore racing home on a two-out single by Wells.
St. Marys finally got to Wells in the top of the fifth.
Pinch-hitter Beau Azzato hammered a leadoff double to right field, then scored on a one-out single by Coudriet —who reached second on the throw home.
Elk-McKean stopped the damage there though, as second baseman Kaden Dennis jumped to snag a line drive off the bat of Straub then doubled off Coudriet at second to end the inning.
Elk-McKean answered right back in the bottom of the fifth, as it coupled two hits with four St. Marys errors to push its lead to 5-1.
Marciniak led off the inning with a single and reached third on two different errors on the play. Zimmerman followed with a single to plate Marciniak. He got caught in a rundown between first and second on the play after an errant throw into the infield.
St. Marys appeared to have Zimmerman in its sights, but a bad throw allowed him to race all the way around to third. He easily scored a batter later when Wells reached on another error on a grounder in the infield.
Elk-McKean then put the finishing touches on its victory with a four-run bottom of the sixth against reliever David Anderson, who came on when Straub hit the pitch count after retiring the first two batters.
Morris, Marciniak and Zimmerman all proceeded to draw two-out walks to load the bases for Wells, who smacked a two-run single to center. Zimmerman then scored on a wild pitch on a close play at the plate as catcher Charlie Coudriet dove back to make the tag attempt.
Elk-McKean plated its final run when Dominick Allegretto reached on an error that allowed Wells to come home to set the eventual final at 9-1.
The two teams will now battle Friday at 6 p.m. for the D-10 title and a trip to the Section 1 Tournament in Guys Mills.