LORAIN — Elyria had a stunning comeback, scoring seven runs in the top of the sixth to steal the lead from Amherst.
That’s what made the Pioneers’ 8-7 loss Monday in a Division I district semifinal at The Pipe Yard that much tougher to deal with.
Elyria failed to get a hit until the top of the sixth, when it chased Comets starter Noah Skladen with a pair of singles that kicked off a seven-run rally.
A throwing error by Amherst closer Justin Mott on a bases-loaded suicide squeeze attempt by Zack Minney gave the Pioneers a 6-4 lead.
Minney came home on a passed ball and it looked like Elyria was on its way to the district final.
It wasn’t meant to be.
The Comets (19-8) scored four in the bottom of the seventh, winning the game when Elyria junior Marques Inman walked sophomore first baseman Casey McConihe with the bases loaded.
The Pioneers had a chance to end the game two batters earlier, but third baseman Kevin Cloen’s throw to first on Brad Hagerich’s two-out grounder was in the dirt, allowing the tying runs to score.
Inman walked the next three batters to end the game.
“Every single one of those kids … all 19 of them are heartbroken,” Elyria coach Ed Piazza said after his team ended the season 12-15.
“I feel for them because they deserved better. This is the proudest I’ve been of them all year.”
Amherst coach Matt Rositano gathered his team together prior to the bottom of the seventh. He wanted to make a point.
“In the huddle, I told them we were just in this situation against Midview,” he said, referring to the Comets’ 10-9 extra-inning win in the sectional final. “Down three, late in the game, we had to put together some quality at-bats, make the pitcher work and hope to get a big hit. Today the big hit was an error, but at this point in the season I’ll take it.”
He also wanted his batters to make the Pioneers throw strikes.
“I told them to take a strike, to get him in the zone and make him work,” Rositano said of his team’s seventh-inning approach. “I knew Inman had just pitched on Friday and threw 98 pitches, so we wanted to get him in the zone. That’s what they did. We put the ball in play when we needed to and worked some walks. It worked out.”
Even with the loss, Piazza was pleased with how his team, which lost 10 of its first 13 games, came together. He gave all the credit to his seniors.
“Those eight seniors turned the season around,” he said. “I gave them an ultimatum and they took it to heart. They changed their ways and we were right there. We were 3-10 and I didn’t think we were going to win five games and they got us to The Pipe Yard. Unfortunately, we couldn’t make that final out.”
Senior third baseman Alex Walts paced the Amherst offense with a pair of hits, two walks and two runs scored. Leadoff batter Rees Rua walked and scored twice and added a stolen base.
The Comets will face St. Edward, a 2-1 winner over Avon Lake, for the district championship today at 5 p.m. at The Pipe Yard.
Contact Mike Perry at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.