The postseason is full of emotions. The winners are elated and the losers have a lot of blank looks on their faces.
Those emotions and many more were on display following the opening night Tuesday of the American Legion Zone 2 Tournament in Ottawa.
Wellsville (16-6) advanced to today’s winner’s bracket final with a 4-3 win over Ottawa at Harvey M. Drake Field. Rock Creek rolled by Oskaloosa, 15-1 in four innings.
For Wellsville, it was the biggest win so far in its program history.
“We played our most complete game,” Caruthers said. “You are not going to beat Ottawa unless you play one of your better games. We know that. They are going to be coming back through. They are not out of this tournament by any means yet.”
This game was good as advertised with both teams playing at a high level. Both defenses came up with big plays. Ottawa threw out a Wellsville runner at the plate. Wellsville made all of the routine plays defensively, unlike the 13-6 loss to Ottawa earlier this season.
Wellsville came through with a two-out hit to score runs. Wellsville bunched six hits together in a four-run fifth inning.
“We had a couple of innings we hit the ball really well,” Caruthers said. “We did not kill ourselves [with errors]. We made them earn their runs.”
Ottawa coach Shawn Herrmann expected this to be a tough game. The Post 60 bats were handcuffed and limited to four hits by Wellsville’s Shamus Kearney and Luke Meyer.
“We did not execute very well offensively,” Herrmann said. “We did not execute hitting wise, bunting wise and everything else. Both of their pitchers threw well.”
Ottawa’s defense played flawless behind starter Nathan Roth, who had six strikeouts.
“We had no errors,” Herrmann said. “Nathan threw very well. He gave us a chance to win.”
Kearney, who was hit hard by Ottawa in the earlier loss, kept Post 60 from bunching hits together in his 5 2/3 innings.
“He threw a lot of strikes,” Caruthers said. “He got big outs when he needed them. He pitched really well. We needed it.”
Ottawa loaded the bases with two outs in the sixth inning. Ottawa scored a run to pull within 4-3.
Wellsville snuffed out the rally as Meyer relieved Kearney and got Ottawa’s Dakota Schmoe to pop up to him for the final out.
“Luke came in in a pressure spot like that with the bases loaded and two outs,” Caruthers said. “He got an out when he had to get an out. That was pretty big for us.”
Wellsville’s three errors did lead to two runs, but did not let those get out of control.
“We got back to playing good D,” Caruthers said. “It keeps you in games and wins you game at the end.”
Wellsville’s Nolan Rush smashed a two-run double to get the Eagles on the board. After a strikeout, Huffman plated two with a single.
“We had a big hit with the bases loaded then we got a big hit with two outs,” Caruthers said. “It ended up being the game winner.”
Both coaches expect this Zone to be full of excitement.
“There is a lot of baseball left to be played,” Caruthers said. “You have to compete.”
Herrmann said Ottawa (23-11) may have a long road back, but it is not a too big of a climb.
“We have to get our confidence back,” he said. “We have to decide to do it. Let’s get after it.”
Ottawa needed a win late Wednesday over Oskaloosa to advance to today’s elimination game against the loser of Silver Lake vs. Rock Creek game.
Wellsville plays 8:15 p.m. today against the winner of Silver Lake-Rock Creek. The semifinals and championship games are set for Friday.