After rebounding from an opening loss to win three straight games and reach the championship finals of the American Legion Class C Area 6 Tournament at Palmer, Albion Cornerstone saw its quest to return to the Class C state tournament, as well as its 2017 season, end with a gut-wrencing 2-0, 8-inning loss to tourney host Palmer-Wolbach-Greeley (PWG) July 25.
The championship contest was a riveting pitcher’s duel, with Cornerstone standout Noah Valasek giving his team an opportunity to win and advance.
Albion Cornerstone did, indeed, have two early opportunities to put runs on the scoreboard. Valasek and Dylan Gentrup led off the bottom of the first inning with consecutive singles, but were stranded there by a pair of flyball outs and a strikeout. After Matt Schmitz walked leading off the bottom of the second, Ty Martinsen reached on a fielder’s choice and advanced to third on a ground out and wild pitch. Another strikeout ended the threat, however, and Cornerstone did not have another baserunner reach against PWG ace Jake Simonson.
Valasek worked around a leadoff walk in the first inning, and an error and single put PWG runners at first and second in the third with one out. Valasek induced a ground out and fly ball to end the third and allowed just two more baserunners until the fateful eighth inning.
Daltyn Rother cracked a one-out single opening the eighth for PWG and Chandler Doncheski drew a two-out walk. Consecutive Cornerstone errors and another base-on-balls plated the hosts’ runs.
Simonson then set Albion Cornerstone down 1-2-3 in the bottom of the extra inning to give PWG the Area 6 championship and berth in the 2017 Class C state tournament.