PARMA HEIGHTS — The Buckeye baseball team will have a ton to think about this summer as it prepares for the 2019 campaign.
The one thing the Bucks won’t mind thinking about is having to play Keystone in league play.
For the second time in two weeks, Buckeye had the Wildcats right where it wanted them and for the second time Keystone walked off in extra innings.
On Monday, it cost the third-seeded Bucks the season when the second-seeded Wildcats scored on an error in the bottom of the eighth to win 5-4 in a Parma Division II District semifinal.
Keystone (24-4) moves on to play fifth-seeded Elyria Catholic (16-12) on Wednesday after the Panthers knocked off top-seeded Holy Name 8-1. Buckeye (20-7) will face an offseason of what-ifs.
“That’s a good baseball team,” Bucks coach Mike Wolf said of Keystone. “They’re well-coached. They’re fundamental. My kids never gave up, either. It was one of those back-and-forth games. There were some people who didn’t think we had a chance to win. There were people who hoped we’d win. There were some people that wanted us to win today, but there were 19 kids that came in here today and believed they could win and they almost pulled that off.”
While it wasn’t like a 6-5 loss to Keystone on May 6, there were similarities.
In the regular-season contest, three errors erased a five-run lead in the seventh and extended things to a nine-inning affair.
This time, a bases-loaded error at home that would have been the second out of the inning allowed the Wildcats to walk-off on Buckeye again.
Nathan Archer opened the inning on a base hit off the pitcher and went to second on a one-out single by Mike Mileski. Nick Compton blooped a single over the shortstop and loaded the bases.
Kevin Mealwitz sent a grounder to third and the throw beat Archer, but was dropped.
“They find a way to put a bat on the ball,” Buckeye pitcher Elijah Walker said. “They have a great defense. I’m sure (the 6-5 win earlier) gave them a lot of confidence going into this game.”
That confidence showed for a Wildcats team that played catch-up most of the night.
Derek Thomas gave Buckeye a 1-0 lead in the second inning, only to see it evaporate in the bottom half of the inning. When the Bucks scored twice in the fifth, Keystone came back with two of its own in the same inning.
A single by Freddy Wright put the Bucks up again in the seventh, but Sean Saterlee tied things with a one-out single.
Buckeye ended that inning with a 1-2-3 double play and seemed to have all the momentum when Rocco Parete reached on a two-base error in the eighth, but Mileski picked him off right after that and Buckeye went down quietly.
“If you look at the scoreboard, every time we scored, they scored,” Buckeye center fielder Adam Matras said. “They gave it their all. Any opportunity they got, they capitalized on and took advantage of our mistakes. That’s what a good baseball team does.”
The bad news is Buckeye is done. The good news is the Bucks will join the Great Lakes Conference with a strong nucleus of underclassmen.
Like Matras said to Wolf afterward, the nucleus is there to be good not just next season, but for seasons to come.
“That’s the challenge,” Wolf said. “We think the foundation has been laid. As I say all the time, we don’t want good to get in the way of being great. We’re going into a new league that’s a very competitive baseball conference. The two teams that played in the other semifinal are going to be in there and then you add in Rocky River and Bay and all those other schools, we’re going to have to elevate our program. We have started in that direction.”
Keystone 5, Buckeye 4 (8)
Buckeye 010 020 10 — 4 11 1
Keystone 010 020 11 — 5 12 3
One out when winning run scored
PITCHING: (B) Bryan Benedict (L, 3-3); (K) Mike Mileski (W, 5-0)
HITTING: (B) Adam Matras 3, Jake Case 3; (K) Nathan Archer 2 (3B), Cameron Emerick (3B), Sean Saterlee 3 (2 2B).