Local high school baseball fans were treated to a scintillating pitchers duel Monday evening at Keith Sutton Memorial Field.
On a warm, overcast day in the Maple City, ancient rivals Honesdale and Western Wayne squared off in what will be remembered as one of the best Lackawanna League games of 2013.
Nate Packer drew the starting nod for the Wildcats, opposed by Dale Weidner of the Hornets.
Both are savvy southpaws, but their approaches on the mound couldn't be more different.
Throughout the majority of Monday's battle, Packer just reared back and threw one fastball after another. For his part, Weidner relied more on his breaking stuff, changing speeds and hitting his spots.
Despite these contrasting styles, the results through six innings were identical. Neither pitcher had surrendered a run heading into the final frame.
That's when the tension finally came to a head.
Western Wayne's scrappy young squad manufactured the game's lone run in the top of the seventh. Packer then handed the ball off to his bullpen and Kyle Johnson sealed the deal on a razor-thin 1-0 win.
"I'm very happy with how the kids played today," Wildcat skipper Jason Kromko said. "Yeah, we made a few dumb mistakes, but we didn't let them get to us. This was a really good win against a quality ballclub."
With the victory, Western Wayne improved its regular season record to 2-1. The 'Cats are in second place in Division Two, trailing only unbeaten North Pocono in the standings.
Meanwhile, Honesdale's early season struggles continue. The Hornets are 1-2, tied with Paupack and Delaware Valley.
Both teams will be back on the diamond later this week.
Page 2 of 3 - Western Wayne travels to Scranton Prep for a crossover contest on Wednesday, while the Red & Black host DV on Friday.
Packer was simply overpowering on this particular afternoon.
The senior lefty used a blistering heater to strike out the first half-dozen Hornets he faced. By the time he left the game after six innings, Nate had piled up an eye-popping 13 Ks.
"Nate was phenomenal today," Coach Kromko said. "His fastball was outstanding, so he really didn't need to throw many breaking balls. Nate just kept throwing in past them."
The lone blemish on Packer's resume was a sixth inning single off the bat of Noah Box. Only one runner advanced beyond second base all night, and that was AJ Meyer thanks to a pair of Wildcat errors.
For six innings, Weidner was every bit as impressive. While Honesdale's starter didn't overpower anyone, he kept Wildcat batters off-balance and matched Packer zero-for-zero.
"That kid did a nice job," Coach Kromko said. "He was pretty deceptive. My kids had a hard time picking up the ball, especially early in the game."
Weidner also struck out the side in the top of the first and finished up with eight Ks.
Western Wayne managed just one basehit until its game-winning rally.
At the Plate
Kyle Troiano paced the offensive attack for the Wildcats.
A fleet-footed young catcher who batted ninth, Troiano worked a walk in the top of the third. Kyle promptly stole two bases, but was eventually stranded at third.
Troiano led off the top of the sixth by smoking a double up the alley in right center. Once again, though, Weidner dug down deep and worked his way out of trouble.
Page 3 of 3 - That luck finally ran out in the seventh.
Packer got things going with an infield single and Coach Kromko immediately sent Derek Gillis into the fray as a courtesy runner.
Gillis quickly took advantage of the opportunity and swiped second. This set the stage for Tanner Gillette to play the hero's role.
Western Wayne's hard-nosed third baseman didn't keep the crowd waiting. Gillette poked an opposite field single to right center and Gillis was on his horse.
"I didn't hesitate for a second," Coach Kromko said. "I was sending him all the way. Derek is one of the fastest kids around and if they throw him out at the plate, then I'll take the blame."
Gillis rocketed around third and slid into the plate just ahead of the relay throw. The Wildcats finally broken through and would carry a 1-0 lead into the bottom of the seventh.
Coach Kromko then made one last strategic move. He lifted Packer from the game in favor of flame-throwing reliever Kyle Johnson.
This decision proved to be sound. Johnson retired the side in order, fanning the final two batters he faced and earning a save.
"Packer and Johnson are our top two guys and I'd stack either one of them up against anybody in the league," Coach Kromko said. "I have a lot of confidence in Kyle in that situation."
Score by Innings...
WW (2-1) 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 - 1
HON (1-3) 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 - 0