Lucky No. 26
Toronto is sectional champ again, Perkins wins 350th game
TORONTO — There was no over-the-top celebration Wednesday evening in Toronto. The Red Knights have been in this situation for the past two-and-a-half decades.
They took a team photo to commemorate the moment, but they know bigger goals are still ahead.
However, that does not mean top-seeded Toronto did not take the time to celebrate its 26th-consecutive sectional title, defeating Malvern, 8-4, to advance to the Division IV East district tournament.
It also was a little extra special considering the Red Knights (21-3) were unable to continue the streak last year.
“It really does. Just to keep the streak alive is special to us because it says a lot about the past players here, and they take a lot of pride in that,” Toronto head coach Brian Perkins said. “I’ve been fortunate to be surrounded by a lot of great coaches and players. It’s a really neat thing, and we’re so excited about winning our 26th straight sectional title.”
Toronto, the defending Division IV state champions, will face third-seeded Shadyside at 5 p.m. Monday at Harrison Central. Shadyside bested No. 6 Strasburg-Franklin, 4-3, on Wednesday.
At first glance, the No. 10 Hornets (12-14) entered with an aggressive mindset and held a 4-1 advantage heading to the bottom of the third inning. The simple answer for what changed is Chris Parker relieving Caleb Leasure in the second and tossing six shutout frames.
There is another explanation, as well.
“What changed is they hit the ball, and they had that one big inning,” Malvern coach Dennis Tucci said. “We had them on the ropes, but they’re a quality team. They weren’t going to be denied.
“I was hoping it would be 5-4 going into the seventh. Even just one more run you still feel like you have a shot.”
The Red Knights tied the game at 4-4 in the third thanks to two Hornet miscues.
With one out, Avery Wiegand reached on an error, then Parker doubled to put runners on second and third. Following a pop out, Evan Wolter delivered with a two-run single and reached second on the ensuing throw from the outfield. He would later score on a Ryan Matyas ground ball to third, and the throw to first got away.
Toronto plated another run in the fourth for a 5-4 lead. Parker cranked the first pitch he saw for an RBI double.
“We’ve been having great practices. The kids really have been working on their approaches at the plate,” Perkins said, regarding only scoring three times during the semifinal win Saturday over Catholic Central. “I wasn’t surprised at all the way we came out and hit. They put the work in, and it showed.”
Malvern starter Derk Hutchison got out of a one-out bases-loaded jam in the fifth with a 6-3 double play.
The Red Knights unofficially put the game away with a three-run sixth, and Hutchison could not record an out before being replaced by Noah Ball.
Dom Bouscher led off with a walk and stole second base. Wiegand was plunked, then Ball entered. Brycen Miller drove a run home with a groundout for a 6-4 advantage. He did the same in the bottom of the first to tie the game at 1-1.
With two outs in the sixth, Matyas and Brant Reeves plated a run each with base knocks.
“Those obviously were important runs and calmed everything down. The kids relaxed, went out there and took care of business,” Perkins said.
Parker had a fairly painless top of the seventh to complete the victory. Overall, he tossed six innings and allowed no runs on four hits, one walk and struck out four.
Leasure only lasted one-plus frames, allowing four runs (three earned) on five hits, no walks and punched out one. Three of Toronto’s four errors occurred within the first two innings.
“Chris did a great job coming in and settling the game down. Caleb just didn’t have his best stuff,” Perkins said. “They hit the ball very well and were aggressive on the base paths. But, Chris settled that down and threw his butt off. We wouldn’t expect anything less.
“It’s one and done. If something’s not working, you have to put something new in there. We are fortunate that that move worked for us.”
The Hornets had a two-out rally in the top of the first, as Connor LeFevre doubled and scored on Payton Davis’ RBI hit.
During Malvern’s three-run second, Tristan Phillips began by reaching on an error and advanced to second on another. Ball and Dylan Phillips, hitters eight and nine, contributed back-to-back first-pitch RBI singles, knocking Leasure from the mound. The third run came on a one-out run-scoring hit from Ethan Bush.
“I am real proud of this team,” Tucci said. “We started the season way down. We’ve only had 62 wins in the last 10 years. That’s not good. This is where we ended up, and we want to start up here (with his hand above his head) next year.”
PERKINS JOINS ELITE COMPANY
Wednesday’s victory marked the 350th career for Perkins as head coach. His career record now stands at 350-70. When that was mentioned, the first thought that popped in his mind was, “I’m old.”
“Honestly, the first thing that comes to my mind is that I’ve been fortunate to be surrounded by a lot of great coaches and players,” he said. “The town of Toronto really loves their baseball. I’ve spent 28 years here, and it’s just fantastic.
“It says a lot about the school, the community and the district. I’m just very fortunate to be a part of it.”
MOMENT OF SILENCE
Prior to the game, Toronto held a moment of silence for Ed Robinson, who died just a few days prior. Robinson served as principal from 2010-2012 and was inducted in the athletic hall of fame in 2018.
“Ed was a larger-than-life person. He meant a lot to a lot of people in Toronto,” Perkins said. “He left his mark everywhere he went. He’ll be deeply missed by everyone. I’ll miss my friend.”
Toronto: Tentatively hosts Wellsville today and may add another regular-season contest before Monday.
Toronto 8, Malvern 4
Malvern 1-3-0 0-0-0 0 — 4 8 2
Toronto 1-0-3 1-0-3 x — 8 9 4
MALVERN (12-14): Hutchison (LP, 6IP, 6R (3ER), 7H, 7BB, 3K), Ball (1IP, 2R, 2H, 1BB, 0K) and LeFevre. Bush 2S, RBI; LeFevre D; Davis S, RBI; Moser S; Walker S; Ball D, RBI; D. Phillips S, RBI.
TORONTO (21-3): Leasure (1IP, 4R (3ER), 5H, 0BB, 1K), Parker (WP, 6IP, 0R, 4H, 1BB, 4K) and Earley. Parker 2D, RBI; Miller 2RBIs; Wolter S, 2RBIs; Matyas 2S, RBI; Reeves 3S, RBI; Earley S.