MANCELONA The Mancelona baseball team defeated one ace hurler Saturday, but the fourth-ranked Ironmen were not able to beat a second one.
Left-hander Wade Oliver of Lincoln Alcona scattered eight hits and pitched effectively out of jams to lead his team to a tense 2-1 triumph over the Ironmen in the Division 3 regional championship game. Oliver, mixing his pitches and getting his breaking ball over in key situations, lifted his personal record to 10-2 as Alcona (21-18) advanced to Tuesday's quarterfinals at Traverse City Central.
Mancelona, which beat defending regional champion East Jordan and mound ace Kevin LaVanway 4-0 in the semifinals, concludes a notable 2009 campaign with a 29-2 mark.
"It's been a phenomenal ride with these kids," said Mancelona coach Jim VanWagner. "I couldn't be prouder of this group. We only had two seniors and we won 29 games in what looked like it would be a rebuilding year.
"If you had told me before the season that we would win that many games, I would have said, 'No way.' It just shows what kind of kids we have."
"This is pretty amazing," said Alcona coach Seth Coffing. "This is the first-ever regional title for Alcona. For the kids to enjoy this kind of success and be able to have this experience is tremendous."
Mancelona scored the first run of the championship game when junior pitcher Nick Lockman doubled in the third inning and came around on sophomore Tyler Hartzell's single.
The Tigers, scratching to get any base runners against Lockman, scored their two runs in the top of the fifth. Oliver singled to lead off and was sacrificed to second by Michael Kilbourn. Michael Briseno then reached base on an error and stole second, putting runners at second and third with one out. Oliver came home on Alex Cole's sacrifice fly and Briseno also scored on the play, advancing to third on the sacrifice and then coming around on an overthrow.
That would prove to be all the Tigers needed against Lockman, who hurled a two-hitter with 10 strikeouts and didn't allow an earned run.
Oliver struck out six and
In the much-anticipated semifinal game between Mancelona and East Jordan, Ironmen senior Greg Blanco went head-to-head with LaVanway in a duel between two of the top pitchers in the area.
Blanco had 10 strikeouts with no walks and allowed two hits with one hit batsman.