Western Reserve captures fourth straight district title in thriller

STRUTHERS, Ohio (WYTV) – It was an emotional night at Cene Park. In addition to the Jackson-Milton Blue Jays and Western Reserve Blue Devils being rivals, both teams were looking at an opportunity to take home a Division IV district title Thursday night.

It took three hours and eleven innings, but it was the top-seeded Blue Devils who emerged victorious in a 4-3 thriller. The district title is the Devils fourth straight in Division IV.

“We played in some tight ones, but never an eleven inning classic like this,” Blue Devils coach Ed Anthony remarked. “Emotions ran up and down, up and down.”

“I’ve been with Western Reserve for eight years, and we have won this district six out of the eight years. This year was challenging because we knew Jackson-Milton plays us tough every time, they have a good ball team and we knew it would be like this. Our kids, I’m really, really proud of them,” Anthony said of reflecting on the district.

After the Devils senior pitcher Wyatt Larimer hit a one-out base hit to left field to start the eleventh inning, he attempted to steal second base. The throw by the Blue Jays catcher Noah Laster sailed into center field, allowing Larimer to race over to third.

With just one out, Blue Jays coach Kevin Hogue was forced to intentionally walk the next to batter to face the Devils Dom Velasquez. Velasquez laid down a perfect bunt with Larimer breaking on the pitch. Larimer scored the winning run before the Blue Jays pitcher Eric Ostrowski could get the ball picked and thrown home.

“We talked about this before. Dom is very good at that (bunting). He just kind of looked over there and we put the squeeze sign on and I think I may have even seen a smile from him because that is how confident he is about that. It worked out for us,” Anthony explained.

“We did what we had to do there at the end,” Anthony said. “He could have gone the other way, but we had to do what we had to do.”

Not only did Larimer score the winning run, but he also pitched all eleven innings for the Devils, throwing 117 pitches, 8 short of regulation limit for high school pitchers. That was part of the reason the Devils were going to be so aggressive in the bottom of the eleventh.

“The adrenaline just kept me going,” Larimer admitted. “Once we got above seven innings and I kept going eight, nine, ten, I knew every time I went out that I just had to keep doing it and do everything I can to help my team win.”

“Every time he takes the mound our team is confident,” Anthony said. “He’s really done a special job. I think down the road, it may take years from now, but I think people will realize some of the accomplishments he has made.”

“I can’t really put it into word, it hasn’t set in yet,” Devils senior Jeep DiCioccio said. “We have worked so hard for this since back in December. It’s unbelievable what this group has accomplished.”

“I’m shocked, I’m filled with emotions,” Larimer added. “To do this four times in a row, this is unbelievable. This doesn’t happen very often. And to be able to do it is a once in a lifetime thing.”