JOHNSTOWN - When Wyatt Belinda smashed a 1-1 pitch over Bishop McCort center fielder Nemo Trexler for a one-out triple in the top of the first inning, ninth-seeded Juniata Valley's hopes for a second straight win over a higher seed in the District 6 Class A playoffs were running high.
Those hopes, though, were short-lived.
McCort right-hander Jesse Cooper got out of the jam without giving up a run. That seemed to take the starch out of the Green Hornets, and the No. 1 seed came up with some clutch hitting to eliminate Valley, 6-0, on a beautiful Friday afternoon at Point Stadium.
The Hornets ended the season 11-9.
"We had a good season. I couldn't ask for a better team,'' said JV center fielder Billy Edmiston, one of four Hornet seniors to play his final high school game. "I just wish we could have got a couple of more wins.''
The big reason was Cooper. After giving up the triple to Belinda, McCort's senior ace retired 14 of the next 15 batters and left the game with a comfortable six-run lead. Mason Varner's third-inning single was the only other hit he gave up, although Ryan Norris did hit a shot to left that was caught at the base of the big, green wall.
"I watched them during batting practice, and I was just trying to hit my spots, where my coaches told me to, work inside, throw my fastball, hit my spots and throw my breaking stuff down,'' Cooper, a 6-foot-2 senior, said.
Cooper was at his best after Belinda tripled. He struck out Valley No. 3 hitter David Ormsby looking at a pitch on the outside corner and then got Derek Greene to ground back to him to keep Valley off the board.
"This is a good group,'' Juniata Valley coach Bill Peters said, "but, once we get down, we sort of drag a little bit.''
Cooper raised his record to 6-1.
"He's a winner. With the game on the line, he's the kind of kid that you want with the ball in his hand,'' McCort coach Chris Pfeil said. "After the triple, they never got into a rhythm.
"That's a good baseball team,'' Pfeil added of Valley. "They're better than a nine seed.''
Valley's cause wasn't helped when Ormsby reinjured the thumb that had limited his action earlier this season on a fourth-inning foul ball; Peters let him try to pitch to a batter in the bottom of the inning but then took him out.
"Losing his bat really hurt,'' Peters said.
Ormsby matched Cooper through the first, but Valley's senior lefty gave up two runs in the second on a double by Trexler and singles from Zach Varga and Justin Vardian, who went 3-for-3. McCort (18-2) added two more runs in the third and was well on its way to punching its ticket into a Monday semifinal home game against fourth-seeded Conemaugh Valley.
"I think [if we scored in the first], it would have started building momentum for the rest of the game,'' Edmiston said.
McCort finished with 12 hits, including two apiece by Trexler and Christian Leech. The Crushers only committed one error, and that was with two outs in the seventh.
Juniata Valley closed the books on a roller-coaster season that included heart-breaking one-run losses to to Mount Union, Bellwood-Antis and Claysburg-Kimmel but also saw the Hornets beat West Branch and Bellwood and win a playoff game at Penns Manor in the last two weeks.
"It took us quite a while, but, I'd say the last four or five games, we really came together as a team,'' Peters said.
JUNIATA VALLEY (0): Morrison ss 300, Belinda 2b 201, Perow 3b 101, Ormsby p 200, Johnson 1b 101, Greene c 200, S. Houck ph100, Edmiston cf 300, Norris 1b-p 300, Singer 3b-2b 300, Claar lf 200, Varner rf 101. Totals - 24-0-4.
BISHOP MCCORT (6): Cooper p-ss 301, Leech lf 412, Neiderheiser rf 401, Stenger 1b 411, Trexler cf 412, Tomkowski 3b-p 201, Kitner pr 010, Varga c 311, Vardian ss-3b 313, Sobecky dh 200, Adams 2b 000. Totals - 29-6-12.
SCORE BY INNINGS
Juniata Valley000 000 0- 0 4 2
Bishop McCort022 110 X-6 12 1
E-Norris, Perow, Vardian. DP-Juniata Valley, Bishop McCort. LOB-Juniata Valley 4, Bishop McCort 8. 2B-Cooper, Trexler, Tomkowski, Johnson. 3B-Belinda. RBI-Varga, Vardian 2, Trexler, Stenger. SAC-Sobecky. SB-Leech 2, Trexler 2, Neiderheiser.
Juniata Valley: Ormsby (L)- 3 IP, 8 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 1 BB, 5 SO; Norris-3 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 3 SO.
Bishop McCort: Cooper (W)-5 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 7 SO; Tomkowski-2 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 1 SO.
Ormsby pitched to one batter in the fourth.
Records: Juniata Valley (11-8); Bishop McCort (17-2).
Umpires: Don Bachota (plate), Rich Speicher (first), Corey Thays (third).