Wayne Defeats Swoyersville To Win Regional Championship
Things couldn't look much worse for the Wayne Wolverines Junior Legion team shortly after noon today in Lower Southampton. They had come into today needing only to beat Swoyersville once to win the Lower Southampton Regional championship. However, they had just fallen short in a 2-1 loss to Swoyersville in the morning game, and Swoyersville opened up the second game with four runs in the bottom of the first inning.
One should never count out this bunch of Wolverines. Time and again during the season, they have come back from behind and bunched runs in big innings. This afternoon, the Wolverines decided to chip away at the lead, little by little, scoring runs in five consecutive innings, to prevail 7-4 and earn the Regional championship. The Wolverines, who are now 25-7-1 on the season, head to Homer City where they will complete to win the 2015 Youth Legion Pennsylvania State Championship starting this weekend.
Patrick Lofton was the starter for Wayne in this winner-take-all game. He had a rough first inning as Swoyersville combined four hits, a walk, and a hit batsmen to race to a 4-0 lead after one.
Wayne and Lofton did not panic. The Wolverines pecked away at the lead with a run in the top of the second. Jack Lee (2-3, 2 RBIs, 1 R, HBP) started things off with a single to right. Keiran Ryan then drew a walk to put runners on first and second. With one out, Matt Cohen was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Lofton helped his own cause with a single right up the middle, plating Lee, but Ryan was tagged out trying to score on a great throw by CF Josh Montalvo.
The Wolverines chipped away at the deficit some more in the top of the third inning. With one out, Ian Myers drew a walk. Jack Dougherty then doubled to right center field with Myers stopping at third. Lee then smashed a single down the third base line, scoring both Myers and Dougherty to pull the Wolverines within one run.
Wayne kept the pressure on in the top of the fourth. With one out, Pass was hit by a pitch for the second time in the game. Myers then bashed a ball off the right field fence for a double that scored Pass to tie up the game. Clearly, the momentum, which early on was certainly with Swoyersville, had shifted dramatically back to Wayne.
Lofton got into a groove, keeping Swoyersville off the scoreboard after the first inning, finishing with a complete game victory, while amassing five strikeouts. Lofton got some help from his friends in the field in the fourth as his battery mate, Darien Pass, threw out a runner trying to steal second, and then shortstop Sean Mullarkey turned a 6-3 double play to end the inning.
Wayne took the lead in the top of the fifth inning. Cohen lined a single to left field with two outs in the inning. Lofton then lofted a pop up to shallow right field which appeared to end the inning. However, the second baseman dropped the ball, allowing Cohen to scamper all the way to third. When the throw went home, Lofton started toward second base. The catcher threw to second to try to nail Lofton for the final out of the inning, but the throw sailed over the shortstop into center field, allowing Cohen to come home with the go-ahead run and a 5-4 lead.
His teammates gave Lofton some breathing room in the top of the sixth inning. Pass reached safely on an error by the third baseman. Myers, who had hit the fence clanging double in his previous at bat, laid down a sacrifice bunt to move Pass into scoring position at second. Dougherty brought Pass home with a single up the middle to make it 6-4. After both Lee and Ryan were hit by pitches (six Wayne batters were hit during the game), Nick Scheri hit into a fielder's choice to the second baseman to make it 7-4.
Lofton's saved his easiest inning for the bottom of the seventh. After a fly out to right and a strikeout by Swoyersville's first two batters of the inning, the game ended when Pass made a diving catch of a foul pop up near the Swoyersville dugout to give Wayne the victory and the championship.
This is the first Regional championship in Wayne Junior Legion history. Last year, the Wayne Prep Legion finished as the state runner-up in its first appearance in the Prep Legion State tournament, with many of those former Prep players now important contributors to the Junior Legion team. Coincidentally, Wayne's Prep Legion team has once again qualified for the Prep State tournament this year and will also be starting their state tournament this weekend.