Barnett pitches Wildcats to Region 15 championship game


LANCASTER — The Whiteoak Wildcats (27-3) advance to the Division IV Region 15 championship game after defeating the Seneca East Tigers (16-13-1), 3-1, at Beavers Field.

WHS will play Berlin Highland 6 p.m. Friday back at Beavers Field.

Whiteoak will travel back home “sleep in their own beds and sleep in,” and take the field again tomorrow night against a familiar foe.

“We’re going to throw Luken Roades. We’re going to do our best to keep them off balance and play a clean game defensively, piece together some good at-bats, apply some pressure on the basepaths and see what happens,” Whiteoak manager Chris Veidt said. “We had them at this level, in the semis, last year. We’ve seen them play quite a few times. We don’t feel like they got our best shot. Our intent is to give them our best shot, stay clean and see what happens.”

Landon Barnett personally willed the Wildcats to victory over Seneca East, as he pitched a nine-strikeout complete game on the mound and scored the winning run on a wild pitch–after stealing second and third base.

“[Barnett] was outstanding. He did what seniors do, pitched out of some big jams, kept his composure when he needed to, and his performance on the bases there, applying pressure by stealing second, stealing third, and scoring on a wild pitch were as big as anything he did on the mound today,” Veidt said after the game.

But Seneca East pounced on Barnett in the first inning, putting runners on second and third — via two infield hits — before a single out was made. Seneca’s Cooper Skeel dropped a squeeze bunt that fell right in front of Barnett, who made the play.

Nate Price opened the bottom of the second with a double, and he was immediately knocked in by Ian Griffith to put the Wildcats on top 1-0.

After their golden opportunity in the first, Seneca cooled off into the third, when a misplayed double to left field gave the opportunity for Caden Fritz, who was walked, to touch home plate all the way from first.

However, this came with controversy. Whiteoak’s left-side infielders and their entire coaching staff were adamant that Fritz did not touch third base. The third base umpire acknowledged that something had occurred at third, but deferred to the home plate umpire to make the call, and he deemed Fritz safe.

Veidt stepped onto the field for a loud and lengthy scolding of the crew, and he later said, “I mean, the runner missed third. We were standing right on top of it. We had five guys who saw it. Sometimes when you’re working three-man crews, and you’re not used to it, you miss things.”

Thankfully for Veidt and his team, the fallacious run didn’t leave a major mark on the game. The final opportunity for the Tigers to make some noise came in the fifth inning, when Fritz stepped to the plate with a runner on third and two outs. Barnett sat him down, earned six outs of the final eight batters he faced, closing out the game for good, 3-1.

“It’s doing what we’ve done all year. No matter what level you’re at. He just took it to the next level,” Veidt said.

The Whiteoak insurance run came from a Zander Roades double play that sent a runner home. Roades, a sophomore, made several key plays from third base over the course of the game.

“I’m proud of [him]. He is a sophomore … he was outstanding. He made plays, balls were hit hard, slow rollers, choppers; he made two outstanding throws and had a big hit there late as well. He was ready to play at this level, and for a sophomore, that’s very impressive,” Veidt said.

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