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July 1, 2014

McLane topples Vernon in 9 & 10 baseball

MEADVILLE — When Meadville Area Youth Baseball and Softball officials made the decision to install lights on Field 4 at Fairgrounds Fields several years back, they did so with a couple of intentions. One of them was to give youth an experience they won’t forget.

It has wound up being something area 9-10 Year Old All-Stars look forward to each and every year. Albeit, it can be awfully intimidating.

“You get butterflies in your stomach,” McLane’s Dane Jukes said. “That’s the best way to explain it.”

Jukes and his teammates had plenty of those butterflies when they opened their run in the District 1 Tournament under the lights on Friday against Conneaut Lake/Linesville. The result was a 19-9 loss and a date with Vernon, an 11-9 loser to Saegertown in the opening round, on Tuesday in the first round of the loser’s bracket.

And with Wyatt Barzak on the mound for Vernon, McLane could not afford to let those butterflies get in the way again. A 3-0 lead after one inning of play, has a way of taking care of just that.

McLane jumped out to that aformentioned lead and relied on a trio of pitchers and some nifty defense behind them on its way to a 5-1 win over Vernon.

McLane advances to the loser’s bracket quarterfinals against Cochranton. That game is tonight at 8 back under the lights at Fairgrounds Fields.

“When you pitch strikes and you hit the ball games change,” McLane coach Allen Turner said. “And that’s what we did (last night). We threw strikes, we played defense and we hit the ball.”

McLane did so from the very first pitch, literally.

Quinn Miller took that first pitch from Barzak and crushed it to the fence in right-center field for a triple. On the next pitch, Jukes hit a bullet to right, scoring Miller. Jukes advanced to second on a single by Ian Kennedy, took third on a passed ball and scored on an RBI groundout by Wilson Spires, the first out of the inning.

“We were a little tight Friday night when we played Lake/Linesville,” Turner said. “I think (last night) we loosened up quite a bit and played hard and came out on top which is great.”

Those runs wound up being all McLane would need fortunately, because Barzak was stellar from there on out. Barzak went 3 2/3 innings. He gave up just four hits, three of which came in that opening frame, walked two and struck out seven.

Vernon just couldn’t get the timely hits against McLane’s trio of Kennedy, Miller and Jared Peyton. It had opportunities.

In fact, it was Vernon who had the chance to strike first and put pressure on McLane with the bases loaded and one out in the first inning. Vernon had a runner thrown out at the plate when McLane catcher Alex Leehan hustled to retrieve a passed ball and flipped it to Kennedy to nab Isaac Johnson.

Vernon grounded out for the third and final out.

Vernon loaded them up again in the second inning on back-to-back hit batsmen and a walk. All three runners were left stranded again.

Vernon scored its only run in the fifth inning when Julian Jones reached on a fielder’s choice, took second on a wild pitch and came around on a single by Rhoan Woodrow. It just wasn’t enough.

Kennedy, Miller and Peyton combined to allow just five hits. Barzak was 2-for-2 to lead Vernon.

For McLane, Jukes was 2-for-3 with a triple. Kennedy was 1-for-1 with two runs.

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