WELLSBORO — Valley West broke open a scoreless game with a six-run third inning and went on to a 12-0 win over the Athens Little League Minors.
The defeat eliminates Athens from the state tournament.
Both teams hit the ball hard at times. Valley View’s Jack Esposito had three doubles. Teammate Logan Hearity had two and Jayden Harman had another.
Duncan Thetga and Eli Hicks had doubles for Athens. The difference was some of Valley View’s extra-base hits came with runners on base. Such was not the case for Athens.
Esposito’s first double came with two outs in the top of the first. He was caught trying to steal third for the third out of the inning.
In the Valley View third, James Pecora hit a screaming liner that nearly tore the glove off the Athens shortstop’s hand. Caleb Aponick added a single and Hearity hit his first double to send Pecora home. Esposito’s only single of the game drove in a run. A pair of errors allowed another run to score and a Jacob Benyo hit sent another runner home. The last two runs of the inning came on an error and an RBI groundout.
In the Valley View fourth, an error, an RBI double by Esposito and a wild pitch made it an 8-0 game.
Meanwhile, Athens was struggling to move the runners they got on base around to score. In the second inning, Athens had two runners on but couldn’t get that one more hit they needed.
Thetga opened the bottom of the fourth with Athens’ first hit — a double. Two outs and two walks later Athens loaded the bases for the first time but a fly out ended the inning.
In the fifth, Hicks ripped a two-out double. Thetga added a single but an out on the base paths ended the inning.
Athens was staring at a 12-0 hole in the bottom of the sixth after Valley West added four runs in the top of the inning.
In the bottom of the inning, Athens loaded the bases on an error and a pair of walks interspersed with two outs. Again, the local side was denied.
“We just weren’t able to find our groove down here,” said Athens Coach Jason Wanck. “It seems like we left our bats down at sectionals. But that’s baseball. Sometimes you have it and sometimes you don’t but the kids played to the end and that’s what I’m proud of.”
Valley West had 15 hits on the day led by Esposito’s 4-for-4 day with three RBIs and three runs. Jacob Benyo added four singles, two RBIs and a run; Herity got two RBIs and two runs off his two doubles and Aponick had two singles and three runs scored. Harman’s double was the only other hit and Pecora scored the other run.
Athens pitchers Thetga and Hicks did well. Thetga had four strikeouts in his 3 1/2 innings without walking a batter. He did give up nine hits in that span but only three of the resulting runs were earned. Hicks pitched the last 2 2/3 innings allowing six hits and one walk with two strikeouts. Of the six runs that scored with Hicks on the hill, three were earned.
The season didn’t end the way the Athens Minors had hoped, but very few teams from small Little League organizations ever get the chance to play in a state tournament.
In addition to the parents and fans, Wanck and his staff are proud of the team.
“(I’m) unbelievably proud,” said Wanck. “I can’t speak highly enough about this special group of boys. They’ve surpassed everyone’s expectations. It’s very rare for any little league our size to get to this point.
“They’ve inspired so many people around them and the entire community. We’re so grateful for this experience and all of the community support.”