Game-ending double play lifts Centerville to tourney win

FAIRBORN — Josh Miller, the pitcher, knew in an instant the game was about to end in victory for the Centerville baseball team. Colten Burleson, the left fielder, and Jason Whited, the head coach, weren’t so sure.

For a moment, the Elks and Monroe were headed for extra innings. In the next moment, the Elks were celebrating a 4-3 Division I sectional victory Friday at Wright State’s Nischwitz Stadium because of an unconventional double play by Burleson.

R.J. Schwab, Monroe’s ninth-place hitter, came to bat in the top of the seventh inning with runners at first and third and trailing the Elks by a run. Schwab hit a line drive into left-center, and Burleson charged it.

“I immediately thought, ‘OK, I got to get this ball in to the cut,” Burleson said. “The runner was stealing (second base), so make sure he didn’t get to third on that.”

Whited saw the play from the dugout on the first-base line.

“When it was hit, I was nervous,” he said. “But we were playing in a position that we felt good about. We had our guys shaded in. I was hoping he could make a play, and then when he did we’re yelling one, one, one.”

Burleson made a diving catch, popped up and threw to first baseman Jackson Clark for the easy double play because the runner was rounding second when Burleson made the catch.

“I saw the runner stealing and I was like, ‘This is a double play,’” Miller said. “I started walking off the mound. I was hyped for all for it. It was elite.”

As Burleson charged the ball he suddenly realized the double play was possible.

“I saw that it stayed up, stayed up,” he said. “So I was like, ‘Oh, maybe I have a chance at this ball.’ So I laid out and caught it.”

The game was moved from Centerville to WSU because of wet field conditions. And the Elks didn’t want to play Saturday because of graduation ceremonies. The win sends the sixth-seeded Elks (15-12) into Tuesday’s district semifinal at top-seeded Springboro (25-2). The Panthers defeated Stebbins 6-0 on Friday and defeated the Elks 6-0 and 3-2 this season.

“When we started this thing we said hey, ‘Let’s give ourselves a chance to play great teams,’” said Whited, who counts Springboro head coach Mark Pelfrey as a mentor. “We’ll see how we match up with Springboro, but I’m confident going in.”

Monroe (16-12) took a 2-0 lead in the second inning scoring on a ground out and a wild pitch against starter Jaydon Benson. But the Elks responded in the bottom of the inning and sent nine batters to the plate to surge to a 4-2 lead.

Karson Adkins led off with a single. Then with one out Luke Maciejewski, Ryan Muchmore and Andrew Erwin drew consecutive walks for the first run. With two out, the Elks were back to the top of the order. Burleson came through first with a single to tie the score. Then Clark lined a two-run single to right.

Burleson, a sophomore, moved into the leadoff spot seven games into the season when Luke Franklin was lost for the season to a torn ACL.

“I think he’s one of the better leadoff hitters in the area, and he did a great job getting a good swing,” Whited said. “And then JC finds a way to drive the ball to right field and kind of busted it open.”

When Monroe’s first two batters reached in the fourth, Whited turned to Miller, who had pitched only nine innings this season. He picked a runner off second base before throwing a pitch and retired eight straight through the sixth inning.

“Jaydon is not our best stuff guy, but he’s our best competitor, and we really like what he’s done all season.” Whited said. “He had some bad luck allowing the two runs. Not our best defensive inning, and they hit the ball hard. We felt Josh with some of his velocity, his curveball could give them issues, which he did till the last inning when they got to him a little bit.”

The Hornets opened the seventh with two hard-hit singles, a bunt single and a sacrifice fly to cut the Elks’ lead to one. Then because the Hornets were trying to get the potential go-ahead run to second base, Burleson’s double play ended the game.

“They like to run and the kid got a good swing,” Whited said. “Our guy just made a great play.”

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