Larimer, Devils contain Bluejays
Western Reserve advances to regional tournament
By John Bassetti
Jackson-Milton batters must have wondered what Western Reserve pitcher Wyatt Larimer had under his eyes when they came to the plate in the Division IV district final at Cene Park on Wednesday evening.
At first glance, it looked like EyeBlack, the greasy-looking splotches applied below the eyes to reduce glare.
But the sophomore was only sporting the residue of natural-looking black eyes from a broken nose sustained four days earlier.
Despite the injury, Larimer managed to pitch well enough and deliver the key hit, too, as the Blue Devils (20-5-1) beat the Blue Jays, 3-1, to advance to the regional for a fourth time in the last six years.
“The kid broke his nose four days ago when he took a ground ball in practice,” Western Reserve coach Ed Anthony said. “We didn’t know if we were going to have him for the district at all and, if not, maybe for the regional or state. He got cleared Tuesday, so, to come out here and pitch the way he did, not only shows a lot of guts, but it shows a lot of dedication to the team.
Larimer (7-0) and losing pitcher Noah Laster (1-1), also a sophomore, both threw four-hitters with Larimer striking out eight and Laster whiffing seven.
But Larimer’s hard-hit fly ball to center field scored sophomore Jeep DiCioccio with the go-ahead run in the bottom of the sixth to snap a 1-1 tie.
The Inter-County League teams are known for tight games since they played twice previously this season with Western Reserve winning, 4-3, before playing about 24 hours later, only to be halted by darkness after 10 innings.
“I knew it was a shot off the bat, so I was determined to go,” said DiCioccio, who was on second base when Larimer smacked a Laster fastball. “[The third-base coach] gave me the sign to go and I just went,” said DiCioccio, who was mostly a role player on the varsity squad in 2014.
DiCioccio’s run put the Blue Devils ahead, 2-1. He reached base on an error following his bunt not far from home plate. DiCioccio advanced to second on Drew Slaven’s fielder’s choice.
By his third at-bat, Larimer caught on to Laster’s pitches.
“We saw him once before this season and I was just getting used to him in three at-bats.”
Anthony said that bunting was a necessary strategy against Jackson-Milton (17-7-1), which committed five errors.
“We had a little bit of success [using small ball], trying to advance the runners,” the Western Reserve coach said. “Noah did a nice job of mixing up his pitches, so we felt we had to do something to generate any kind of scoring chances [by moving runners]. Combined with their five errors, it [small ball] worked for us today for three runs. That’s a good team we beat.”
Anthony was still amazed by his pitcher’s tenacity.
“That’s really his mask,” the coach said when questioned about Latimer’s Zorro-like appearance. “If you would have seen him three or four days ago, he had that raccoon look.”
No. 9 hitter Ryan Demsky, a freshman, had two hits.
Besides Larimer’s two singles and RBI, Zach Smith had a single and two RBIs.
Laster, Nate Clark, Jon Voland and Matt Johns had singles for Jackson-Milton and Clark had the team’s RBI.