SHELBY- It wasn't the same level of heartbreak this time, but Anthony Wayne's second bid to reach the state baseball semifinals once again came up shy Saturday.
This time the Generals ran into hot-swinging Cleveland St. Ignatius, which banged out 15 hits in a 15-7 win in the Division I regional final at Shelby High School.
In 2006, on this same field, coach Mark Nell's AW squad took a 7-4 lead to the bottom of the seventh before eventual state champion Strongsville rallied for an 8-7 win.
The game-breaking inning came much earlier this time, and will likely be a sore subject to AW followers for at least a little while.
With the Generals (20-9) up 4-2 with one out in the bottom of the second, the Wildcats (25-7) had runners at second and third when Jesse Franklin hit a fly to shallow left-center.
Anthony Wayne left fielder Sam Fischer collided with center fielder Anthony Meyers as they converged on the ball. Initially, the first-base umpire in the game's three-man crew ruled Fischer caught the ball and that Wildcat Mike Burke was subsequently doubled off second base to end the inning.
But, as the Generals were darting off the field in jubilation of the inning-ending double play, St. Ignatius coach Brad Ganor asked for an appeal. The third-base umpire ruled no catch and, after more than five minutes of debate between Nell and all three umpires, the latter call stood.
Instead of batting with a two-run lead in the third, AW returned to the field with a 4-3 lead, one out, and Wildcat runners at first and third. After Generals starter Jordan Schwerer hit Kevin Hopkins (3-for-3, double, RBI) with a pitch to load the bases, then retired Frank DeSico on an infield popout, St. Ignatius then capitalized further on the controversial play when Brad Clement ripped a go-ahead, two-run double to left.
"I don't know if we would've won the game or not, but that was a god-awful call," Nell said. "That was absolutely ridiculous, and the way it was handled was absolutely ridiculous.
"In 25 years of coaching, this is the first time I've said something like that. That was not a good situation. Whether we would have won the game or not, who knows? But that was ugly."
Wildcats starter and winner, Luke Farrell then retired the Generals 1-2-3 in the third, and his teammates added three more runs in the bottom of the third plus four more in the fourth for a commanding 12-4 lead.
"The key was to score after that happened," Ganor said. "If they were able to get out of that, that's the difference. That's the difference in momentum.
"They're high school kids, and momentum shifts emotion, and kids start pressing. To come up with a hit after that controversy was huge."
Schwerer pitched to three batters in the fourth, retiring none. He ended his 91-pitch outing having yielded eight hits, five walks, the hit batsman, and 11 runs (nine earned).
"Something like that, where you get the third out, and they're down and we're up [in runs and emotionally], you never know what could happen," AW senior catcher Josh Ward said. "We've got a lot of good bats on this team, and it's just unfortunate that it happened that way. I can't say we gave up, because we didn't."
AW, which went scoreless and hitless from the third through fifth innings, finally chased Farrell during a three-run sixth. But it was too little too late against St. Ignatius, which advanced to state for the third straight season.
The Generals were led by Meyers' 2-for-3 effort. He drove in two runs with a sixth-inning double.
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