Canton, OH – At Thurman Munson Memorial Stadium, the 2022 Western Reserve Collegiate League (WRCL) season and playoffs came to an end on Monday night between the #4 seed Stark County Terriers (12-12) and #3 seed Ohio Elite (14-7) in the championship game. Ohio Elite took care of Dugout Baseball Club by shutting them out 6-0 in the opening round of the postseason, while the Terriers held on 9-8 over Premier Ohio. Ohio Elite defeated the BHM Buckeyes in the semifinals on a walk-off single while Stark County knocked off the #1 seeded T3 Warhawks 7-5.
The championship was a closely contested one that featured 14 walks, two hit-by-pitches, and a pair of solo home runs. Stark County jumped on Elite starter Matt Kahn in the first by scoring twice on a Jack Mathey single and Carson Nicodemo’s RBI walk. Kahn struck out Breydan Cavey looking to end the half inning.
Drew Hallgren got the ball for the Terriers, who looked dominant in the opening two frames as he retired the first six, he faced, which included striking out three. In the third, Davis Burick launched one over the wall for a solo shot that extended the Terriers' lead to three. They had a chance for more after Lane Marshall singled and Mathey doubled, however, Christopher Franks entered and got out of trouble, keeping it a 3-0 game.
Ohio Elite scored a gift run in their half with the benefit of a throwing error, a Hallgren wild pitch, and a Mathey passed bass, which allowed Chaisson Marrs to cross the plate. That was all they got, and after another scoreless inning of relief work by Franks, Elite had a chance to inch closer in the fourth. They added a tally on Casey Leddy's single that sent Andrew Micale to score, making it a 3-2 contest.
Stark County once again made it a two-run lead when Mathey was hit by a pitch, and JC Philippi hit a ground rule double. Then, Cavey drove home Mathey on a sacrifice fly to center fielder Nick Stoltz.
Ohio Elite went quietly in the fifth after Christian Harris tossed a scoreless frame, and the Terriers added to their lead when Mathey ripped a two-out RBI double, which made it a 5-2 Stark County. In the bottom half, Ohio Elite had their best opportunity to tie the game as they loaded the bases on walks, but Ben Mohler got a 1-2-3 twin killer to finish them in the sixth.
Matthew Aukerman tossed a zero on the board in the final frame that might have been different if a Nicodemo ball hit down the right field line wasn’t picked up by his teammates in the bullpen, thinking it was a foul ball. The umpire called him out, making it easier for Aukerman to keep it a 5-2 contest.
Kyle Zaluski blasted a homer over the wall in right off Mohler, which made it a 5-3 Stark County lead. Marshall entered for the Terriers and attempted to record the final three outs. He got Luke Thomas and Bradley Goodyear out on a pair of groundouts. Micale reached on a single that sent a tying run in Patrick Ciccantelli to the plate. Ciccantelli hit one back to Marshall, who threw it to Nicodemo at first to give Stark County the WRCL Playoff Championship.
The Terriers celebrated on the infield, and then both teams lined their respective baselines to shake hands. League President John Mengelkamp presented Stark County with the Championship Trophy with the t-shirts being passed out.
Stark County’s summer ball journey isn't over yet, as they travel west to Sandusky to compete in the NABF College World Series. It all gets underway on Thursday with an opening matchup against the Jasper Reds at Sports Force Park Field #3 at 4:00 pm.