By Lisa Byers
RANDOLPH TOWNSHIP —
At 10 o’clock in the morning, Jesse Staudt was at Franklin High School, dressed in his red and blue Cochranton uniform prepping for what wound up being a pair of games in the Crawford/Venango American Legion baseball postseason tournament.
Eight hours later on Saturday evening, Staudt was going through the same routine, this time clad in maroon for the Meadville/Mid-East/Titusville Senior League baseball team in Randolph Township.
For many, that would have been an exhausting day. But for someone like Staudt, who lives and breathes the game of baseball, he would have it no other way, especially when it ends like it did last night.
Staudt delivered a one out double down the third base line and into the corner in left field, scoring Trevor Smith to lift MMET to a 5-4 win over Conneaut for the District 1 Senior League championship.
“He’s dead tired,” MMET coach Keith Klingler said of Staudt. “To come here and win a game like this after the day he’s had … That’s 21 innings of baseball. And then he gets the game-winning hit.”
Staudt had an opportunity to blow open a close game in the third inning with a pair of runners on and two outs. But fully aware of Staudt’s potential (he batted .351 with a .667 slugging percentage during the high school season), Conneaut opted to intentionally walk the slugger and face Noah Marvin with the bases loaded.
It didn’t quite work out as Conneaut had hoped.
Marvin drew a walk to score Kyle Nuhfer and Cam Motzing was hit by a pitch in the next at bat to score Smith, giving MMET, who scored one in the second, a 3-0 advantage.
But in the seventh, with the scored tied 4-4 and Smith on first following a one-out single and Staudt due to the plate, it looked for a moment like Conneaut might try the intentional walk again. Instead, Conneaut opted to pitch to the right hander.
Staudt popped the first pitch foul. He cranked the next one over the third base bag and all the way to the fence scoring Smith with the winning run.
“I was kind of expecting to get walked,” Staudt said. “But I’m glad they decided to pitch to me.”
Staudt’s heroic effort was set up by an outstanding performance by Smith. Smith took over on the mound in the fifth inning. The Meadville product did give up the go ahead run in the fifth, but allowed just a walk through the final two frames with three strikeouts to give MMET a chance.
“I wanted to make sure I had my best guy on the mound in the end and that is exactly what happened,” Klingler said. “He came in and went 1-2-3 right down the middle of their order in the top of the seventh to set it up for us to win and then he gets the hit to get on base and get things going.”
Conneaut got itself in the game with a three-run fourth inning. Jarrod Gallo, Jordan King and Jeff Millin started it off with a single, walk and single, respectively, to load the bases. Gallo came around to score on an error on a pickoff attempt, King scored on a sacrifice fly by Jack Benfield and Millin crossed the plate on another errant pickoff throw to tie the score at 3-3.
Conneaut took a 4-3 lead in the fifth on King’s RBI single scoring Taylor Williams that just missed clearing the fence in center field.
MMET tied it up in the bottom half of the inning. Zack Richards drew a leadoff walk and eventually scored on a sacrifice fly by Motzing.
“I just couldn’t ask anything more of these guys,” Klingler said. “We put this group together on (July 10). That is what is so great about this group. You would never know it.”
MMET advances to the Section 1 Tournament, hosted by Meadville Area Youth Baseball/Softball at the Crawford County Fairgrounds Fields. The tournament begins Wednesday. MMET plays its first game on Thursday.
Staudt finished the game 3-for-3. Smith was 2-for-4. Motzing drove in a pair of runs.
For Conneaut, Millin was 2-for-2.