MOUNT UNION - Sweeping a team across three meetings in the same season is always a hard task no matter what level of sport.
Friday afternoon, the Mount Union baseball team was looking to do just that as it went face-to-face against Inter-County Conference rival Bellwood-Antis in the opening round of the District 6 Class AA playoffs.
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 reminded Bellwood-Antis why its a perennial favorite in the tournament.
Sentinel photo by TIM?SHUMAKER
Starting pitcher Darrian Stapleton throws for Mount Union in its District 6 game against Bellwood-Antis Friday.
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.
It was a strong defensive contest on both teams' part as the game finished in a scant hour and forty minutes - after starting early to accommodate Mount Union's prom schedule.
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 1/3 innings.
Despite the loss, Blue Devils veteran manager Steve Conlon was proud of how hard his team played.
"Maybe there was a little nerves their 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 catcher 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, picking up a lone run. Leadoff hitter Boomer Brown opened with a shot into center field. Teammate Thad Wakefield moved Brown up a base, dropping a picture-perfect sacrifice bunt.
Mount Union had one out when McClain and Walker both reached on consecutive trips to the plate, a walk for McClain and an infield hit by Walker.
With the bases loaded, Brown touched home on a wild pitch.
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 in the contest. 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.
Josh Wertman advanced the runners as he put down a bunt of his own, putting runners on second and third.
With one out, the Blue Devils got on the board thanks to an RBI fielder's choice by Trent Crepdage, scoring Dionis on the play.
Jake Stapleton 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.
Atherton singled, then Brown bounced into a fielder's choice that took out Atherton. Wakefield followed with a sizzling shot that went down the third base line, putting runners on first and second.
McClain roped the game's only extra-base hit, scoring Brown and sending Wakefield to third.
Walker finished off the scoring as he bounced a grounder that allowed Atherton to cross the plate.
"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 skipper 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 finishes its season with a record of 13-8. Mount Union improves to 17-5 and will be back in action Monday at home against Marion Center, a 3-2 winner over Central on Friday.