Drawing an opening-round bye is an advantage any team would like to have and every team is hoping for when playoff brackets are released, so when the Wellsville-Middletown varsity baseball team found itself in that position head coach Earl Burton knew he had to parlay that position into something more.
When the top-seeded Tigers, 12-4 overall, then blanked number-four Community R-6 on Monday 3-0, not only was this squad an instant hit, but they had also earned themselves a spot in the Class 1, District 11, title game at number-three New Franklin on Tuesday against second-seed Madison, 7-5 overall.
Even though there might be a lot of ways to describe this contest, the most definitive highlight was Jacob Ussery throwing a complete-game no hitter with 10 strikeouts to lead Wellsville-Middletown to a 3-0 victory.
"This game was tight. The Tigers got one run in the third inning and two in the fifth," said Tigers coach Earl Burton. "The game ended on a diving catch by Ben (Burton) at shortstop, who doubled off the runner at first base that drew a walk. The sixth ended on a diving catch by Kollin McCoy in right field."
Coming together to help push those runs across the plate was Ben Burton and Ethan Burton, both of which went 1-for-3 with a walk and a run. Isaac Ussery also got in on the good times for Wellsville-Middletown by going 3-for-3 with one RBI and a run and Clayton Ebers was 1-for-2.
"This group worked hard throughout the season. They have done the little things to be a successful team," Earl Burton said. "I couldn’t be more proud of this group. The championship eluded us last season and the players knew what they wanted and put the time in to make sure it happened."
As for the win over CR-6 last Friday, Trojans head coach Joel Krato mentioned his team was outhit 5-3. But, he also stated this campaign was the culmination of this program going from three wins in two years to 7-9 overall this season, so his players still have a lot to be proud of regardless of the outcome.
"Senior Levi Rafferty pitched the best game of the year for us, keeping them off balance. Wellsville has one of the better lineups that we've seen and Levi kept them to 5 hits and 3 runs. Overall, this year has been filled with many accomplishments," said Krato. "Being only a few plays away from playing for the district championship this year has been awesome to witness. I am so proud of all the work they have been put in all year long. The parents have been nothing but supportive to this program."
Wellsville-Middletown will start sectionals May 20 against Concordia, 17-4 overall.
"It's been such a blessing to have such great parents like we do here at Community R-6," Krato said. "We had a great group of seniors and parents that this program will miss greatly. Although the season is over, the relationships built will last forever and that's what is actually important.