Bulldogs leave it "all on the field"
There is an old sports cliche that coaches don't mind losing as long as their players give their best effort "all on the field."
That saying is not entirely true.
It was evident by the exhausted and tear-stained cheeks of the Wheaton baseball player's faces that for three hours they gave everything they had in a 7-6 Class 1, Sectional loss to Norwood in 11 innings.
"I am proud of my boys," said Wheaton coach Jason Webb. "They fought and clawed and played with passion. Did we miss a couple of chances here and there? Yes, but so did they. We had a chance to win. As a coach, you always want to put your team in positions to win."
In the playoffs a coin is flipped to determine home and away teams. Norwood won the opening toss and elected to be the home team.
Wheaton came to the plate ready to swing the bat.
With one out Sean Goostree doubled and Kyle Robbins singled to give the Bulldogs runners at the corners. Jory Bartkoski smoked a single to left field to score Goostree. Robbins scored on Steven Hendrick's fielder's choice to give Wheaton a quick 2-0 lead.
The Pirates responded with a three-run rally in the bottom of the first, and extended the advantage to 4-2 in the second inning.
The Bulldogs showed their trademark resiliency in the top of the fourth inning. Having gone in order in the second and third innings Wheaton struck for three runs.
Hendrix opened the frame with a single. With one out, Anthony Brattin singled to give the Bulldogs runners at first and second. Dylan Burns laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt to move the runners up 90 feet. Chase Cantwell then belted a clutch two-out double to score Hendrix and Brattin. Tyler Musick doubled to score Cantwell and give Wheaton a 5-4 lead.
The Pirates scored the equalizing run in the bottom of the fourth, but the Bulldogs raced back in front in the fifth when Hendrix was caught stealing, but stayed in a rundown long enough for Robbins to score from third.
Wheaton took a 6-5 lead into the bottom of the seventh inning, but was unable to hold the advantage. Norwood manufactured a run on two Bulldogs' errors.
Each team was unable to mount much of an offensive threat in three extra innings.
In the bottom of the 11th Norwood's Cody Hull hit a bloop-single over first base. He promptly stole second. With one out, Brad Lachney singled between second and first base and just inches away from a diving Hendrix. The speedy Hull was able to motor home with the winning run.
"We could have laid down and just quit when we got down two (runs) early on," said Webb. "We kept picking each other up. We fought. We left it all on the field tonight. I told the boys that they should hold their heads up high."
After hearing -- but not seeing -- two Walter Johnson fastballs whiz by him, Cleveland's Ray Chapman turned and headed for the bench.
"You've got one strike left," umpire Billy Evans reminded him.
"Never mind, I don't want it," Chapman responded in an exchange that became part of major league baseball lore.
Batters from Jasper and McAuley likely echoed Chapman's sentiments after Robbins and Goostree posted back-to-back shutouts against their teams to lead the Wheaton Bulldogs to the Class 1, District 6 championship at Exeter.
Robbins authored a perfect game in Tuesday's 18-0 win over Jasper. Goostree struck out 15 Warriors on Wednesday, as the Bulldogs earned an 8-0 victory.
The title match was over in the bottom of the first inning, for all intents and purposes. Musick reached base on an error, then scored when Goostree drilled a 2-0 fastball into deep right center. Robbins singled Goostree home, then stole second and scored on an error.
McAuley's Mitch Wear doubled to lead off the top of the second inning, and Anthony Berticino walked. But Goostree fanned the next three batters to stymie the threat. McAuley would only place two runners in scoring position in the contest as Wheaton rolled to the 8-0 win.
The Bulldogs finished the season 9-6.