ELYRIA — Without the chance to bat, Colin Weekly used his glove and arm to help Elyria stay alive in the Division I sectional tournament.
He had the two biggest outfield assists of his life Tuesday as Elyria pulled out a 3-2 squeaker over neighborhood rival Midview to advance to Thursday’s sectional final vs. Avon, a 10-0 winner over Westlake.
Weekly, a senior left fielder, was the primary participant in two double plays the Pioneers (15-12) pulled off in keeping 13th-seeded Midview (7-15) from stunning the tournament’s fourth seed.
“It’s something we work on in practice,” Weekly said. “Felt great during practice.”
Noah France was the designated hitter in Weekly’s spot in the order.
“Nah, I don’t care,” Weekly said. “I just like playing baseball. I like being out there. I love playing defense.”
Midview threatened to blow open the game in the first inning, but Weekly changed the whole complexion of the evening with his catch and throw on Alex Schroeder’s sacrifice fly.
Connor Bansek had opened the game with a double over the head of center fielder Mike Knapp. Jacob Landers walked and when Seth Sanders laid down a bunt along the first base line, everybody was safe when the throw to first wound up in short right field. Bansek scored, Landers advanced to third and Sanders moved to second.
Schroeder lifted a fly to left and Landers tagged up and scored, but Weekly threw a strike to second to nail Sanders, who was caught dead in his tracks between second and third. Midview scored twice but it could have been so much more.
“I knew there’d be some first-inning jitters,” said Hunter Olsen, who has been pitching with a fractured finger for a few weeks. “Big game, but after that I settled in. I felt good after that.”
“We talked about it coming in,” Elyria coach Ed Piazza said. “Probably out of the 26 games, we’ve started behind in like 24 of them. Sometimes it don’t go good but (Olsen’s) a bulldog and he got in a groove after that first inning.”
The Pioneers responded by tying the game in the bottom of the first.
Hunter Osborne singled but was retired at second on a fielder’s choice by Evan Engle, who stole second and scored on Knapp’s single. Knapp scored on a double steal with Zach Schuster, who had singled to right.
“It makes it easy for us to score if the catcher throws down there,” Knapp said. “If I’m on the bag, I’m definitely taking it. I know (Schuster) will stay in the pickle or get to second if I go.”
In the third inning, Schuster drove in Osborne on a long sacrifice fly to center for what proved to be the winning run. Osborne had singled and Engle walked. France grounded to the hole at short and Osborne scrambled back to third on Bansek’s strong throw to the plate, loading the bases for Schuster.
“All week in the cage, we’ve just been working situations,” Schuster said. “I’ve always been told, if you see your pitch, just try to drive it. He gave me a fastball down the middle and I just tried to put it out there.”
Olsen, the junior right-hander, picked it up from there. He allowed only three more hits and one of those runners was retired on another great relay throw by Weekly in the sixth inning.
“That was beautiful,” Olsen said. “Throw was perfect — both throws were. Hit his cut, perfect tag and everything.”
Bryce Sanders led off the inning with a booming double to the gap in right-center. Spencer Evans pinch ran and Damon Mathis sacrificed him to third. Spencer Pavell drove a fly ball to Weekly and Evans tagged up, but Weekly threw a strike to third baseman Cameron Brubaker, who turned and fired a strike to catcher Max Peyton in time to get Evans to retire the side.
“We jumped off to an early lead and kind of went stale for a while,” Midview coach Todd Radica said. “I was going to roll the dice on any opportunity we had. Opportunity came up and I’d do it all over again. Two great throws and they made the play at the plate.”
Olsen, who threw more than 100 pitches, finished the game. He struck out Andy Lewis to start the seventh and when pinch hitter Matt Kardos attempted to bunt, he was ruled out for stepping out of the batter’s box. Bansek walked but Landers grounded to Schuster at first for the final out.