MANLIUS – The 2A Bureau Valley Regional championship on Saturday in Manlius was as evenly matched as they come, as the Erie-Prophetstown Panthers used a two-run fourth inning to scoot by the St. Bede Bruins 2-1 on their way to a berth in the Morrison Sectional.
“It was a game that I expected," Erie-Prophetstown coach Jason Orman said. "I expected two good lefties, and I expected it to be a tight game of who made the least mistakes and executed."
A pitcher's duel was broken up in the fourth inning, when the Bruins committed two errors. After the first error allowed Owen McConnell to reach safely, Kyle Coleman blasted a double to the fence in right-center field.
McConnell scored on a single by Ethan Howard that deflected off of pitcher Jarrett Olson’s glove to make the score 1-0.
“His fastball was better today than I thought the first time [we played them]," Orman said. "So anytime he’s got good life on his fastball, and he’s got that curveball and changeup, he’s tough.
"I thought our approaches got a little bit better. Trying to go the other way, that’s kind of what we wanted do is stay on the off-speed and shoot the ball the opposite way.”
The second error of the inning by the Bruins infield allowed Coleman to score from third base, giving the Panthers a 2-0 lead after four innings.
“Well, we had some chances and didn’t come up with it," St. Bede coach John Bellino said. "It really and truly came down to baserunning, I felt. We gave them two runs in an inning where they had one ball out of the infield, and we had two errors.”
With the Bruins threatening in the sixth inning, the Panthers defense stepped up with two huge plays to save runs.
After second baseman Jack Brady and first baseman Ethan Duttlinger each drew walks, Olson stepped to the plate and blasted a double that one-hopped the right-field fence.
Brady had to hold to see if the ball would drop, and was gunned out by the perfect relay from right fielder Howard, who hit shortstop Jordan Chandler, who riffled one to catcher Grady Todd, who applied the tag to Brady.
Howard was instrumental in the next play that saved a run, with a two-out diving catch in right-center field.
“Ethan Howard is a senior, and that’s one of those plays you need in a regional title game, and he came up with it," Orman said. "You need at least one or two of those at some point in a postseason run, and he stepped up big.”
“We booted the ball around a little bit there in that inning, and we never did recover from that, and they didn’t do that,” Bellino said.
The Bruins scored their lone run during the inning on a groundout by third baseman Michael Bellino.
The Bruins threatened again in the seventh inning, loading the bases before pitcher Ken Cole shut the door by striking out the last batter he faced.
“He’s a kid that doesn’t get rattled,” Orman said of Cole. “Our defense is always our best behind him. We’re always able to set up our defense when he’s on the mound, so I’m always confident."
Cole went all seven innings, striking out seven and allowing one earned run. Olson went six innings, striking out nine and allowing one earned run.
Howard was 1-for-3 with a single and an RBI.
Olson was 2-for-2 with a single, a double and a walk for the Bruins.