But in a Division II district semifinal at Sports Force Parks, Shelby eliminated the Truckers, 3-2, on Thursday.
“We battled to the end despite not playing great in the field and not getting too many clutch hits early, and a couple tough calls that went the opposite way than we hoped for,” Norwalk coach Wes Douglas said. “We still battled to the end and were one hit away maybe from tying it or winning it.”
Shelby freshman catcher Blaine Bowman threw out two Truckers trying to steal second base, but the biggest moment that went Shelby’s way came in the bottom of the second inning.
Sam Battles led off with a single and scored on Anthony Weisenburger’s towering triple that bounced to the 418 sign in center field. After Zach Keefer walked, senior Leighton Battles stepped to the plate with nobody out and the game tied 2-2.
Battles laid down a bunt that was fielded by Shelby first baseman McGwire Albert. The throw home was late, but the home plate umpire immediately raised his hands and called interference on Battles. That meant Battles was out, as was Weisenburger.
Instead of taking the lead, the Truckers’ inning ended a batter later and they would not score again.
“He said he raised his hands over his head. Interference. He’s out and the runner’s out,” Douglas said. “Our interpretation of the rule was different than that. Instead of a dead ball and the runner going back to third, we had two outs and nobody.
“Not much we could do about it. They acted like they were positive about it. Tough call there.”
The last five innings moved along quickly in a game that lasted just 90 minutes on a warm, windy day.
Shelby scored what proved to be the winning run in the fifth inning. Bowman, the No. 9 hitter, led off with a double. He scored with one out when Blaise Caudill hit a shallow fly ball into center field that dropped for an RBI single.
Norwalk left the bases loaded in the fourth and put two runners on in the sixth and seventh. Eli Obringer and Nate Adelman singled with two out in the last inning but were stranded.
“It was a really clean game, crisp and clean,” Shelby coach John Amicone said. “We did a nice job of manufacturing runs, getting bunts down and running the bases well and that was the difference.”
Shelby scored twice in the top of the first to grab the momentum. Leadoff hitter Caden Payne walked and scored on Caudill’s double. A two-out popup single to shallow left by Marshall Shepherd scored Caudill.
“Norwalk does such a good job with the safety squeeze and suicide,” Amicone said. “They bunt so well, so to get on top early and take that away was key.”
Caudill threw six up-and-down innings before Zack Hartz threw a scoreless seventh to earn the save. Caudill walked six and allowed at least one runner in every inning, but came away with the victory.
Norwalk starter Thomas Gfell settled down after a rough first inning and went the distance, allowing only six hits. Freshman catcher Sam Battles was the only Trucker with two hits at the plate.
“After not throwing real well against Perkins in his last outing he gave us a chance to win, that’s for sure,” Douglas said. “I’m proud of his effort.”
Norwalk scored in the bottom of the first when Garrett Obringer led off with a triple to the fence in left. He scored on Eli Obinger’s sacrifice fly.
But the Truckers stranded runners on third base in three separate innings, which proved to be the difference. Norwalk ends the season 19-9. Shelby improved to 14-11. The Whippets get a shot at their first district title since 1996 at 7 p.m. tonight.
“Any time you can advance in the tournament it feels good,” Amicone said. “I have so much respect for Wes and the way he’s able year in and year out to have a consistent winner. When you get a win against Norwalk, whether it’s in the season or tournament, it’s a good win because they’re so well coached and such an elite program in the area.”
“We won a league and sectional championship and return everyone but Leighton Battles,” Douglas said. “Hopefully they’ll work hard in summer ball and during the winter.”
Shelby 200 010 0 — 3 6 0
Norwalk 110 000 0 — 2 7 0
WP: Caudlll; LP: Gfell
2B: (S) Caudill, Albert, Bowman; (N) S. Battles; 3B (N) G. Obringer, Weisenburger