MEADVILLE — While no one likes to lose in sports, you’ll often find coaches who believe a loss can be a good thing if it comes at the right times and serves as a learning experience.
DuBois Minor League All-Star baseball manager Brandon Lyle was one of those people Friday following his team’s 9-6 victory against Clarion that earned DuBois the Section 1 championship and a trip to the state tournament in Indiana.
Four days earlier, DuBois left the field in Meadville on a low after a 6-3 loss to Clarion in the opening game of the Section 1 Tournament. DuBois didn’t let that setback define its season though and responded to it in a huge way by winning four games in four games to win the title coming out of the losers’ bracket.
The final two of those wins came against Clarion, including a 5-1 win Thursday that forced Friday’s winner-take-all championship game.
Not even two quick runs by Clarion in the top of the first could derail DuBois’ momentum, as the District 10 champs traded scoring blows with Clarion through two innings to lead 6-5.
Clarion tied things up in the fourth, but DuBois promptly regained the lead in the bottom of fourth on a Ben Yale RBI single before scoring two big insurance runs in the fifth on its way to the three-run victory.
Clarion actually outhit DuBois 8-5, but DuBois used patience at plate (drew 11 walks) and aggressive base running to make those hits count. DuBois had just one player — Seth Wilmoth — who had two hits as he knocked in a pair of runs with two infield singles.
DuBois also played error-free defense behind the pitching duo of Maddox Bennett and Mason Dinkfelt.
Bennett threw the first three innings, allowing five runs, all earned, on five hits while striking out five and walk four. Clarion tied the game with an earned run against Dinkfelt in the fourth, but he settled in from there and notched the win after giving up just that one run on three hits. He struck out five and walked none.
“After that first loss, we kind of warned them about being complacent and things like that,” said DuBois manager Brandon Lyle. “Hats off to Clarion. They exploited every little thing we harped on them about going into that game. I think after districts, and I don’t want to say overconfident, but they weren’t completely focused on the task at hand.
“Playing Clarion first, and getting smacked in the mouth like they did, might have been a good thing for us. We’re fortunate to have the pitching depth we do, because coming out of the losers’ bracket isn’t easy. But, we had pitchers who never pitched in districts, guys like Maddox Bennett, Seth Wilmoth and Madix Clark, all step up in a big way here.”
Clarion doubled its run total from the Thursday’s loss in the first inning Friday to grab the early lead.
Dylan Smail got the inning going with a one-out walk. He took second and third on wild pitches before scoring on a single to left by Parker Miller, who later came home on a wild pitch to make it 2-0.
DuBois answered right back with three runs in the bottom of the first.
Wes Clyde and Brady Galiczynski each drew walks to open the inning. Yale followed with a blast to left-center that Clarion’s Paul Craig made a diving catch on. Clyde tagged up the on play, which proved key as Madix Clark then hit a fly ball to right. The ball was dropped, allowing Clyde to score. Even had the ball been caught, Clyde still likely would have scored on what would have amounted to a sacrifice fly.
Dinkfelt followed with a RBI single to center, while Clark scored with two outs on Wilmoth’s first infield single of the game to put DuBois up 3-2.
Clarion came right back with three runs of its own to take a 5-3 advantage.
The District 25 champs loaded the bases with no outs on a pair of walks and an infield single by Liam Huwar. Smail then ripped a two-run single to center, but DuBois threw out Huwar trying to go first to third for a big out in the inning. Smail then stole third before scoring on an infield single by Miller.
The back-and-forth battle continued in the bottom of the second as DuBois posted its second three-run inning in a row to regain the lead.
Bennett led off the inning with a single to center, then circled the bases on a wild pitches with Brayden Zatsick at the plate. Zatsick drew a walk in the at-bat and moved to second and third on wild pitches before scoring on a groundout by Clyde.
Galiczynski then reached on an error before Clark and Dinkfelt drew two-out walks to load the bases. Wilmoth followed with a ball up the middle that shortstop Smail knocked down but couldn’t corral. Galiczynski scored on the infield single to give DuBois the lead at 6-5. Clarion got out of the inning when Clark was thrown out trying to score from third on another wild pitch.
The score remained 6-5 until the fourth when Miller singled home Smail, who also had singled, to knot things at 6-6. Miller was 3-for-4 with three RBIs for Clarion, while Smail was 2-for-2 with a pair of RBIs and three runs scored.
DuBois answered right back in the bottom half.
Galiczynski drew a leadoff walk and took second on a failed pickoff try by Clarion’s catcher. That miscue proved key as Yale followed with a single to right-center to score Galiczynski to put DuBois up for good at 7-6.
DuBois tacked on two more runs in the fifth when Walker Thomas and Galiczynski each drew walks and eventually scored on wild pitches to set the final at 9-6.
“We certainly left some runs out there today, but the kids did what they had to do today,” said Lyle. “That’s a very good team we beat, and their (Clarion’s) discipline level, as a coach, I’m a little jealous of it. We’re still working at that, but it’s been a team effort to get through this.
“I can go through our whole list of 12 players and point out something big they all did at a crucial time to contribute to us getting to this point. Hopefully, heading to state tournament we’ll come together a little more and keep growing as a team.”
DuBois opens state tournament play Tuesday night at 8 p.m. against Lower Perkiomen, the Section 8 champ, at IRMC Field in Indiana.