Tuesday’s Capital Athletic Conference Tournament opener between York and Wesley had just about everything you’d expect from a college playoff baseball game.
Unless, of course, you were pulling for the Spartans.
In an outstanding pitchers' duel, the Spartans eventually suffered a 2-0 setback. The game hinged on one bad pitch to one of the conference’s best hitters.
With the loss, No. 3 seed York travels to No. 1 seed Salisbury on Thursday for the second round of the double-elimination tournament. The Spartans were making their first appearance in the conference tournament since 2014.
After a first-pitch strike to open the top of the sixth, Spartans starter Joel Kenney walked Cody Dmiterchik on five pitches.
Kenney would then work a 2-2 count to Wesley’s Trey Mears, who entered the game with a robust .517 average (62-for-120). Kenney attempted to place the 2-2 offering low, but left it out over the plate a little too far.
Mears was able to quickly get his wrists around and drove a long ball over the left-field fence to put the visitors ahead 2-0.
“(Kenney) just got one pitch a little elevated, and that kid is possibly the best player in the conference, and he didn’t miss it,” Spartans coach Mike Scappa said. “It really comes down to both pitchers are pitching great. They got that one big hit that they needed and we were not able to get that.”
Mears’ blast would be more than enough for Wolverines starter Alex Marrs, who went the distance, allowing three hits. While Marrs didn’t have the most dominating stuff, his placement was pinpoint, resulting in nine strikeouts against two walks.
Marrs rode the momentum of Mears’ blast and struck out the side in the bottom half of the sixth.
While the game didn’t feature much offense, it wasn’t without its fair share of action. Marrs’ victory would be put in doubt twice down the stretch.
With one out in the bottom of the seventh, Seth Brosius was able to line a first-pitch single into center field. However, that same plate aggression came back to bite the Spartans. Cleanup hitter Christian Bilan swung at his first offering and grounded sharply into a 5-4-3 double play to end the threat.
“He was mixing three goods pitches. He had a better-than-average fastball, a curve ball he could control and then he mixed in a change up. His ball had some movement,” Scappa said of Marrs. “When you talk about, at any level, major league to little league, there’s a difference between a pitcher and a thrower. He was a very good pitcher, his sequence was good and he kept us off balance all day.”
The Spartans got their last chance in the bottom of the eighth after a two-out single from Kennard-Dale graduate Collin Crowell was followed by a walk drawn by Bryce Stout. Stout was pinch hitting for York Catholic graduate Patrick Clement.
With the Spartans now having their first runner in scoring position on the day, Marrs was able to get York’s Garrett Southern to fly out to end the frame.
York got a single to start the bottom of the ninth before Marrs retired three straight Spartans, slamming the door shut by striking out Bilan to end the game.
Kenney was solid in his effort, tossing 7 2/3 innings while allowing the two runs on five hits. He struck out five and issued one walk.
“Joel Kenney gave us the start we needed,” Scappa said. “He was pinpoint today and he’s a super competitive kid. He really brought it today, really had his pitches working.”
Reach Elijah Armold at firstname.lastname@example.org.