SOUTH DAYTON - With the Division 3 baseball title on the line, the Pine Valley Panthers (11-5, 11-1) proved they were not going to let the Westfield Wolverines (13-5, 10-2) beat them a second time.
The Panthers earned a 2-0 victory on Wednesday and avenged an 11-1 loss earlier in the season to be the lone team atop the division.
"This win means a lot," Pine Valley coach Chris Buczek said. "We started off the season 0-3 and we felt a lot of pressure from how good the team did last season. This was a big confidence boost to beat an exceptional team like Westfield."
Offense was hard to come by in the early innings as both teams were playing stellar defense behind a pair of pitchers who were on top of their game in Westfield's Brent Morrison and Pine Valley's Zack Fancher.
Morrison was on the bump for the Wolverines and shut down the Panthers early until he found himself in a bit of a jam in the bottom of the third.
"I thought Brent did a good job mixing his pitches," Westfield coach Doug Kaltenbach said. "He kept them off balances and overall had a nice game."
Pine Valley's Kyle Riggs led off with a single, which was followed by Gene Farnham drawing a walk. With one out, Winfred Nelson also drew a walk to load the bases for Pine Valley.
Morrison was able to pitch his way out of the jam with a strikeout and a flyout to keep the game scoreless through three innings.
"There were a couple times we had a runner in scoring position with one out and didn't score," Kaltenbach said. "On the other hand, we also got out of some big jams like when they had the bases loaded in the third and got out of it."
In the bottom of the third, Fancher proved he was just as effective on the mound as his counterpart, as he produced a trio of strikeouts.
"I thought Zack was in pretty good command of his pitches," Buczek said. "I think his biggest asset was the way the defense played behind him."
The Pine Valley defense showed how it had its pitcher's back in the fourth after Fancher allowed a single from Austin Alonge, but the Panthers spun a double play to keep the Wolverines at bay.
The first real scoring opportunity for Westfield came in the top of the fifth when Anthony Leone led the inning off with a double. A Jon Coe groundout advanced Leone to third with just one out. However, Fancher struck out Cameron Wright which was followed by Tyler Wright groundout to third base.
"Both teams played great defense," Kaltenbach said. "The play that their third baseman made to throw the runner out at first saved a run."
In the top of the sixth, the Panthers found themselves in another jam.
With one out, Brent Kawski drew a walk and stole second base to give the Wolverines a runner in scoring position with the heart of their batting order due up.
Once again, Fancher worked his way out of the jam.
"When Zack got batters to pop up, we made the plays, and when they hit ground balls, we made the plays," Buczek said. "To face Alonge and Morrison and get out of the jam was big."
The bottom of the sixth proved to be the difference as the Panthers found a way to do some damage with the bats.
"We couldn't come up with a timely hit," Kaltenbach said. "Both teams struggled in that department, but Pine Valley found a way to have a burst of hits in the sixth."
With two outs and a runner on a first, Lyle Howard came to the plate and had a big RBI double to left field.
Fancher then helped his own cause by following that up with an RBI single to right field.
"Lyle hit that ball over the left fielder who full out dove for the ball with the wind blowing in," Buczek said. "That was a big-time hit. Then to have that second run is such a relief. We got two big hits from two players who have been a part of this team for a while."
Fancher finished the game off strong with a 1-2-3 seventh inning to end with eight strikeouts and allowed just three hits.
Morrison also allowed just three hits with four strikeouts in the loss.