Brock Netter, Staff Writer
LANCASTER — The Cinderella ride for Huntington has officially come to an end.
The Huntsmen were victims of their own errors Thursday evening, committing five errors while mustering only four hits in an 8-0 loss to Toronto in a Division IV regional semifinal at Beavers Field.
“There’s always three things that we preached to the guys before every game,” Huntington coach Ed Yates said. “We have to throw strikes, play solid defense and execute offensively. We didn’t do those three things very well and against a team like Toronto, it diminishes your chances.”
Huntington (13-15) had its chances to strike first, or equalize, in each of the first two innings. The Huntsmen had runners on first and second in both frames but grounded out to end the first, and got caught in a rundown to end the second.
“We had base runners on in most innings, but couldn’t get them across,” Yates said. “On the other hand, Toronto did. They took advantage of some errors and that’s what good teams do.”
Toronto (25-5) drew first blood in the bottom of the first with an RBI single off the bat of Nick Sninchak. He later got caught in a pickle, but his base-running mistake allowed a runner to score from third for a 2-0 lead.
Huntington’s defense shook off the early jitters, and played better over the next two innings, routinely escaping jams with rundown situations and pickoff attempts. That was in defense of starter Elijah McCloskey on the bump.
“Elijah really settled down after that first inning and began to take some control,” Yates said. “His curveball was breaking nicely and his changeup was working pretty effectively. Toronto was being really aggressive, but he did a nice job of holding him and the defense made some nice plays as well.”
But those types of plays soon caught up to the Huntsmen.
In the bottom of the fourth, Huntington caught a runner dead to rights on the base paths but a throwing error pushed the lead to 3-0 … and the bleeding didn’t stop there.
“We have to do those things and attempt a good number of pickoffs,” Yates said. “We knew that Toronto was a really aggressive team and there are times we struggle offensively. Therefore, a good part of how we attack teams is making them guess about when to steal. Sometimes it works out great, other times it doesn’t.”
After a pitching change, Huntington surrendered a bases loaded walk, followed by an RBI single from Nick Kafarra, as Toronto took a 5-0 lead.
In the fifth, the Red Knights added two more runs thanks to a sacrifice bunt an infield single. They added the final run of the game off an RBI groundout via Sninchak, putting an end to Huntington’s season magical season.
Although the finish isn’t how the Huntsmen aimed to close their season, they end as Division IV district champions for the first time in school history, to which Yates credits a late season turnaround.
“We were 5-12 through our first 17 games,” Yates said. “And then we finished 8-2 in the last 10 games and the kids finally began to believe in themselves the way us coaches believed in them all year. We were playing good competition and losing close games. Once that belief kicked in and we were playing D-IV teams in the tournament, we took off. I couldn’t be more proud of this team and how they fought until the end.”