Maybe the last team and pitcher the Waynesburg University baseball team wanted to play in its first appearance in the Presidents’ Athletic Conference tournament in four years is Grove City and John Bini, and rightfully so.
Of the five PAC teams Waynesburg played three times each this season, Grove City was the one of two to win the season series, sweeping the Yellow Jackets.
Waynesburg never led in any of the three games, and in the two games that Bini started he also finished.
Maybe the fourth time seeing the Wolverines, and third time facing Bini, was exactly what Waynesburg needed.
Then again, maybe not.
After giving up only one hit and taking a seven-run lead into the bottom of the seventh inning, Waynesburg pitchers imploded as second-seeded Grove City sent 14 batters to the plate and scored 10 runs – all with two outs – in the seventh to shock the third-seeded Yellow Jackets, 15-11, in a first-round game at Washington & Jefferson’s Ross Memorial Park Thursday afternoon.
“The wheels came off in the bottom of the seventh inning,” said Waynesburg coach Mike Humiston. “Guys we’ve counted on in the past had a tough time. It seemed like we started every batter with a 2-0, 3-0 or 3-1 count. (Grove City) was sitting dead red for fastballs. That’s what happens. We couldn’t stop the bleeding.”
The Wolverines trailed 7-0 entering the bottom of the fifth and 9-2 before their huge seventh inning. It was the largest comeback in a PAC tournament game since the exact date 11 years ago when Washington & Jefferson erased a 8-0 deficit and went on to defeat Thiel.
Grove City (27-13) will return today to play host and top-seeded W&J in a winners’ bracket game at noon in the double-elimination tournament. Waynesburg (21-18) plays in an elimination game at 3 p.m. against Bethany, which lost 12-0 to the Presidents in the tournament opener earlier Thursday.
After Waynesburg starting pitcher Mason Miller exited with no outs in the seventh inning and still leading by seven, the Yellow Jackets used five pitchers over the final three innings. They combined to allow 10 hits, 11 runs, three walks and none lasted more than two-thirds of an inning.
After cutting its deficit to 9-4, a three-run double into the right-centerfield gap by Grove City’s Bobby Abbot scored three runs. Tanner Orner then hit a two-run triple to the same gap to tie the game at 9-9. Three more extra-base hits, from Travis Auth, Jesse Clary and Matt Dayton, gave the Wolverines a 12-9 lead when the seventh inning was finally done.
“We had a game plan and that wasn’t it,” said Grove City coach Matt Royer. “We were facing who many think is the best pitcher in the conference. The game plan was to keep it close and get him out by the seventh inning. We got him out by the seventh inning, but I don’t consider 9-2 very close. It was just a crazy game. A great lesson. I have lost games like that and won games like that. What a game. It was ... interesting.”
Grove City added three insurance runs in the eight inning and held off a late push in the final inning from the Yellow Jackets that was stopped after they scored two runs.
Waynesburg looked like it was going to savor every moment of its conference tournament appearance, batting around and scoring five runs in the second inning. The inning was started by the bottom half of the Yellow Jackets’ batting order. Tyler Woodrow began a run of five consecutive batters to reach base. Woodrow singled on a line drive to left centerfield, Tyler Srbinovich walked and Mitch Nordstrom, Alec Fantaskey and Justin Buberl hit three consecutive line-drive singles to take a 3-0 lead.
A sacrifice fly and ground ball that snuck underneath the glove of diving Grove City first baseman Matt Dayton extended the lead to 5-0, two more runs than the Yellow Jackets combined to score in Bini’s two complete games earlier this season.
Bini was pulled after Fantaskey blooped a single into shallow center field one inning later to score Woodrow and extend the lead to 6-0. Bini lasted 2 2/3 innings.
The bottom four batters in Waynesburg’s lineup combined for 11 hits, eight runs and six RBI. Tyler Woodrow, the No. 6 hitter, led that effort by going 4-for-5 with two RBI and scoring twice.
“Oh, absolutely,” Humiston said when asked if they wanted to see Bini again. “Our mindset was to get him out of of the game and get to their bullpen. Earlier this year, he had our number. I think we started to figure him out a little bit.”
The bullpen that did not hold up was that of the Yellow Jackets.
The six pitchers Waynesburg used in the nine innings walked 12 batters and hit four. Out of the 16 free passes, six eventually came around to score.
“I think what we did today is like what we’ve done in the past,” Humiston said. “When Mason is on the mound, we get complacent. It wasn’t self-inflicted as far as errors and bad baseball. That’s what would have happened last year. We have to regroup and come back and play Bethany.”