By Kenny Varner
For the Mirror
MOUNT UNION - Sweeping a team across three meetings in the same season is always a hard task no matter what level of sport.
The Mount Union High School baseball team was looking to do just that as it hosted Inter-County Conference North Division rival Bellwood-Antis in the quarterfinals of the District 6 Class AA playoffs on Friday.
The Blue Devils held their own, standing on a slim 2-1 lead going into the bottom of the fourth inning.
That's where Mount Union took control.
Mount Union's Ryan McClain and Trevon Walker spoiled the visiting team's hopes, picking up back-to-back RBIs to launch the Trojans into the lead for good in a 3-2 victory.
Leading the offense for Bellwood-Antis was Haden DeGennaro, who went 2-for-4. The Blue Devils' Ryan Stuby kept the game close from the mound but at times had problems with his control, walking eight Trojan batters in 4 innings.
Despite the loss, Blue Devils veteran manager Steve Conlon was proud of how hard his team played.
"Maybe there was a little nerves there for our pitcher. He hasn't walked that many all year," Conlon said. "We were able to get out of jams tonight and you need to give them credit. Both teams played small ball tonight, realizing that no one was going to score, and they got one more than us. We had our chances."
One of those chances was a monster shot by right fielder Bryan Lynn in the top of the sixth. The ball flew just a few feet foul of being a home run with a runner on.
Mount Union struck first in the bottom of the first.
Bellwood-Antis was quick to retaliate, plating two in the top of the second inning to take the lead.
Stuby opened the inning by reaching on the first of only two walks Mount Union starter Darrian Stapleton issued. He then was replaced on the base paths by pinch runner Alex Dionis.
Lynn kept the rally going as he laid down a bunt between third and pitcher's mound, and Josh Wertman advanced the runners on a bunt of his own.
Dionis scored on a fielder's choice by Trent Creppage. Jake Stapleton then put Bellwood-Antis ahead when he hustled out an infield single.
That lasted only until the Trojans tagged Stuby for two runs on hits by Hunter Atherton, Wakefield and McClain.
"The first three innings we let eight or nine runners left on base. I thought it was an ominous sign. You can't let those guys on in a game of this type of magnitude," Mount Union manager Nick Imperoli said. "Our defense did the job today. Darrian pitched well enough. He pitched well when he had men in scoring position but the defense came through play after play today."
Bellwood finished its season with a record of 13-8. Mount Union improved to 17-5 and will be back in action Monday at home against Marion Center, a 3-2 winner over Central Friday.
BELLWOOD-ANTIS (2): DeGennaro cf 402, Luensmann ss-1b 400, Gray 3b-p 300, McNelis 2b 000, Beech dh 301, Astore pr 000, Stuby p-ss 111, Lynn rf 311,Wertman 1b 200, Dionis cr-3b 000, Creppage c 300, Stapleton lf 301. Totals - 25-2-6.
MOUNT UNION (3): Brown c 321, Wakefield lf 211, McClain 1b 201, Walker ss 401, Kylor 2b 200, Heffner cf 300, Rogers 3b 000, Morgan rf 200, D. Stapleton p 000 H. Atherton dh 201. Totals 22-3-5.
Score by Innings
Bellwood-Antis020 000 0 - 2 6 3
Mount Union100 200 X - 3 5 0
E-Creppage, Wertman, Gray. 2B - McClain. RBI - Creppage, McClain, Walker. WP-Stapleton. LP-Stuby. SO-Stuby 1, Gray 1, Stapleton 3. BB-Stuby 8, Gray 3, Stapleton 1
Team records: Bellwood-Antis (13-8); Mount Union (17-5)