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Canton can't get big hit in title game loss

June 14, 2013 - Mitch Rupert

STATE COLLEGE – Cole Peterson learned quite the handy piece of information in the first inning Friday at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park. He watched two screaming line drives come back over his pitching mound and knew Canton was on to his fastball.

The gameplan changed in a hurry. The undefeated pitcher from Johnsonburg was ready to feed the Warriors a steady diet of curveballs. It's not exactly a pitch he has a ton of confidence in, but it was a change he had to make.

The changed paid off. The right-hander allowed five baserunners to reach second base Friday morning, but only one reached third. Canton failed to come up with a big hit and lost the PIAA Class A state championship game to Peterson and the Rams, 5-0.

The day was full of great scoring opportunities for Canton in a game which was scoreless through 5 ½ innings. But none of them materialized thanks to Peterson's breaking ball.

“His curveball, it wasn't a big looper and it didn't break real hard, but it was slow and it was hard to adjust to,” Canton leadoff hitter Emmett Watson said. “You got to think fastball the whole time and when you pick up the spin, you have to adjust and take it to right field. It was difficult. He was a great pitcher and he did a great job.”

First it was inducing a tailor-made 6-4-3 double play in the first inning with two runners on base for Canton. Then it was a line drive right at second baseman Quinn Luhr with the bases loaded and two outs in the fourth inning. And then it was a pop-up in the sixth with two runners on and two outs.

They were all chances which came in a 0-0 game. And they were all chances Canton failed to capitalize on. The Warriors struck out just six times against Peterson, who finished the year with nearly 120 strikeouts, but of the balls it put into play with runners in scoring position, none went for a hit.

The Warriors were 1 for 11 with runners on base. And it was 0 for its last 10 in the situation. “Getting baserunners on and then not executing is a big problem,” Watson said. “We tried our best to get the hits down. They just didn't get down.”

“We were still hacking away at the ball, they just made plays,” Canton's Connor Route said. “We just didn't string the hits together. We needed that one to get our confidence going and it didn't happen. The ball didn't go our way.”

Trevor Route, who was hitting .318 through the regular season, was the spark plug for the Warriors on Friday. His one-out single in the first got a rally going until a double play ended the frame. He led off the fourth with a single and Canton loaded the bases before the line drive to second ended the threat. And his leadoff walk in the sixth started a string of fielder's choice plays by Johnsonburg until the Rams got out of the inning.

And Peterson's curveball was a big reason why. The Warriors had to respect Peterson's fastball which consistently sat at 81-82 for seven innings. And the wrinkle of a curve was off-speed enough he could get Canton's batters rolling it over or popping it up.

“I like to throw it because it will catch them off-guard, but they were also on my fastball. So that's why I kept going off-speed,” Peterson said. “I threw more breaking balls and tried to pound them in with it to get some more double plays and some high flies. It was great defense we played.”

One run could have completely changed the complexion of the game, too. Garrett Wesneski was brilliant for five innings for Canton before running out of gas in the sixth. He not only matched Peterson pitch for pitch, he was even just a little bit better.

One run carried so much weight that Johnsonburg was playing in the infield in the fourth inning of a 0-0 game with its two, three and four hitters due up in the bottom of the inning. The stress of having to be perfect finally got to Wesneski in the sixth. Johnsonburg sent 11 batters to the plate and scored all five of its runs as it found hole after hole and Wesneski began to labor.

“It would have been nice if we would have had a few runs,” Canton coach Bob Rockwell said. “It would have taken some pressure off him, but it didn't happen. He kept battling out of situations. We just couldn't get that run to take the pressure off him.”


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