DUBOIS — A higher level, a bigger stage, but still the same result for the Elk-McKean all-star baseball team.
A year after winning the state championship at the junior league level, Elk-McKean began its run at a senior league title, topping Oil Valley 7-2 on Wednesday night in the first round of the state tournament at Showers Field in DuBois.
The victory sends the team back to Showers Field this evening at 8 o’clock in the second round of the double elimination tournament.
“It wasn’t exactly what we painted up, but we got the win,” Elk-McKean head coach Casey Zimmerman said.
After trading scoreless frames with Oil Valley for the first two innings on Wednesday, Elk-McKean got going in the top of the third.
Playing as the road team on the scoreboard despite hosting the tournament, Kaden Dennis got the inning started with a lead off double.
He came around to score on a sacrifice bunt from Ethan Wells before Elk-McKean tacked on three more runs in the inning on two errors as well as a Harley Morris RBI single to lead 4-0.
Oil Valley then plated two runs in the bottom of the fifth inning, but the all-stars from Kane, Johnsonburg, Ridgway and Wilcox wasted no time responding.
Dennis laid down a bunt in the top of the sixth that scored two teammates and put Elk-McKean up by four.
Elk-McKean took advantage of several Oil Valley errors in the game, while its own defense played a mostly flawless game in the field.
Camron Marciniak added a final insurance tally by scoring on a passed ball in the seventh.
Aiden Zimmerman preserved the lead by striking out the side in the sixth before throwing a scoreless seventh to close the game.
“Once again our small ball played a big role,” Zimmerman, who coached the all-stars at the junior league level last year, said. “Our defense was consistent and our pitchers did a nice job. It’s our recipe and we don’t get too crazy sometimes but we get the job done.”
Other than that fifth inning, Oil Valley rarely threatened with runners on base limited in almost all scoring opportunities.
E-M, meanwhile, put several base runners on via successful bunt attempts and also stole bases during run-scoring innings in the third and the fifth.
Elk-McKean advanced to the state tournament by beating DuBois in a three-game series to enter as District 10 champions. It’s allowed just five runs over the last two games heading into tonight’s contest.
“Because of the experience the kids have from last year, plus adding the new players and how they’re mixing together, everyone is gelling well,” Zimmerman said prior to the game.
The championship game of the tournament is set for Sunday afternoon with additional rounds on Friday and Saturday.