EDWARDSVILLE – The first 19 outs came easily to J.J. Hood and the Wyoming Area defense.
The last two took some time.
The Warriors built a nine-run lead, then withstood Dallas rallying to score all of its runs in the bottom of the seventh inning Wednesday while winning the District 2-4 Class 4A Subregional baseball title, 9-6.
Aside from a pitching change, during the rally in which seven straight Mountaineers reached base, Wyoming Area coach Rob Lemoncelli remained in the dugout as his team locked up the title repeat.
“I have a very good and very close relationship with my guys,” Lemoncelli said. “They know what I expect out of them. They know what to do. There’s no reason to panic.
“ … There was nothing they haven’t seen before. It’s just like the 21 outs they’ve gotten 23 other times. They’ll figure it out.”
The Warriors gave themselves time to do so by pounding Dallas pitching.
“They played well today,” Dallas coach Ken Kashatus said, “and they touched our pitchers who were pretty tough this year.”
Jake Kelleher drove in the first four runs with three different hits, then Wyoming Area appeared to blow the game open with five runs in the sixth inning, highlighted by back-to-back homers from Hood and Hunter Lawall.
Kelleher also had a home run.
“These guys work 365 days a year,” Lemoncelli said of Wyoming Area’s three college baseball-bound leaders. “They’re in the weight room every morning before school, throughout the offseason in the summer.
“People see them hit the ball like that and they think, ‘boy they’re really good players’. And, they are really good players, but boy do they work.”
Kelleher went to work right from the start. The senior catcher and East Tennessee State commit singled in a run in the first, hit a solo homer with one out in the third and singled in two runs in the fifth for the 4-0 lead.
Jack Mathis led off the game with a double and scored on Kelleher’s one-out single.
After Kelleher’s homer made it 2-0, Wyoming Area threatened a big inning in the fifth.
Casey Noone, Mathis and Melberger had three straight singles to start the inning and load the bases. Kelleher made it four straight and drove in two runs.
The first six Warriors reached in the inning, but one was caught stealing and reliever Sam Barrouk retired the first two batters he faced, forcing Wyoming Area to leave the bases loaded for the second time and settle for the 4-0 lead that Kelleher created.
The big inning came in the sixth when six hits led to five runs.
Hood’s two-run homer was followed by Lawall’s inside-the-park homer to the vast expanses of center field.
Lawall also followed Hood to the mound.
Hood carried a two-hit shutout into the seventh.
“He got stronger as the game went on,” Lemoncelli said. “He was down in the zone. There was no real threat to him.
“I thought he was dominant.”
Until the seventh.
Hood issued his third walk to start the inning and another with one out.
Jared Adamsky’s RBI single broke the shutout and Gavin Adamsky followed with a double to drive in another run.
Lawall took over, but four more batters reached, including a two-run single by Nick Nocito and a two-run triple by Mike Timinski.
That’s when, as Lemoncelli observed, the Warriors figured it out.
Lawall recovered to get a strikeout and a pop up in the infield to end the game.
“It was definitely not an easy one, but I’m really proud of these guys today,” Lemoncelli said.
Mathis had two hits and scored three runs from his leadoff spot.
Nocito and Jared Adamsky had two hits each for Dallas, the top seed which finished 15-5.
Wyoming Area (20-4) advances to face District 4 champion Montoursville (16-5) Monday in the first round of the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association Class 4A state tournament.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This story was created from the reporting of Paul Gerrity.