YORK TWP. — Tom Metheney bombed it, the jet stream carried it, Patric Jones “Cansecoed” it and Buckeye’s baseball team completed another storybook ending because of it.
Metheney couldn’t have picked a better scenario to play the role of unlikely hero.
The seldom-used senior smoked a curveball that glanced off Jones’ mitt and over the left-field fence — not quite like a ball bouncing off former Major League All-Star Jose Conseco’s head, but close enough — as the fourth-seeded Bucks absolutely stunned No. 6 St. Vincent-St. Mary 8-7 Tuesday in an Akron Division II Sectional final.
Buckeye (17-7), which blew 4-1 and 7-6 leads before Metheney’s from-the-big-screen theatrics, advances to battle top-seeded Hoban (15-10) on Monday in the district semifinals.
“It’s a first,” Metheney said with a wide grin. “It doesn’t happen too often, so it was nice.
“You know, I’m not normally that kind of a hitter, so it was kinda nice. I didn’t even look at it. All I saw was (Jones) ‘Cancseco’ it.”
Metheney entered play 3-for-15 (.200) on the season and had never hit a home run dating back to T-ball. He is normally the defensive replacement for starting first baseman Nico Galizio in tight games, and coach Steve Wright made that move out of habit in the top of the seventh inning.
“I’m a genius,” Wright deadpanned.
As the 6-foot-3, 195-pound Metheney stepped into the batter’s box to face slowballing left-hander Mark Wysocki with one out, a home run was the furthest thing from his mind. It was the furthest thing from most everyone else’s mind, too, but right fielder Alex Green and assistant coach Mike Davis joked that Metheney was due to go yahtzee.
It turned out to be a massive understatement.
Metheney pulled the first pitch, an inside curveball, foul before looking at a curve on the outside corner. The right-hander knew what was coming next, so he got around on a 1-2 bender and immediately turned heads on a swivel.
The stiff breeze that helped teammates Robbie Nonamaker and Joe Bruening hit homers earlier in the game gave the ball extra lift, but Jones appeared to be in position. The
5-foot-11 senior backpedaled and leaped just before the warning track, but the ball ticked off his glove as he slammed into the fence.
Game over, mosh pit at home plate and everyone within a 400-foot radius shaking their heads in disbelief.
“That was beautiful,” Bruening said. “It was funny because Coach Davis and Alex Green, our right fielder for this game, said, ‘Watch this. Tom’s going to hit a walk-off to win it.’ Then you heard a ‘Bing!’ and we all got up and said, ‘No, no,’ and at that point we were all out at home plate. It was just insane.”
Metheney’s home run put the finishing touches on another back-and-forth classic 24 hours after Buckeye rallied to beat archrival Black River in eight innings.
The catch was the Bucks did it while watching ace Eli Kraus (7-0, 1.21 ERA) struggle for the first time all season.
The left-handed Kent State recruit was staked to a 4-1 lead following Bruening’s three-run homer that cleared Wolff Road in the third. The wheels fell off in a hurry, as the Fighting Irish (10-14) used six straight hits in the fourth, including a two-run single by Corey Whaley and an RBI triple by Vinny Carson, to go up 6-4.
Kraus rebounded to strike out six over the next 2⅓ innings, giving the shell-shocked Bucks the emotional boost they needed.
“Eli kept us in this,” Metheney said.
Buckeye finally got to left-handed, strike-pounding starter Andy Farrell in the sixth. Pinch-runner Mike Millward, who entered after Galizio singled, scored from first on two errors started by a pickoff attempt from Farrell, and Nick Duliba and Green singled in consecutive at-bats with two outs.
St. Vincent-St. Mary coach Anthony Boarman then brought in hard-throwing first baseman Whaley as a change-of-pace. It backfired, as Whaley walked Vinnie Galizio and Nonamaker to tie the game.
Wysocki fared little better by walking Scott Cloudy to give the Bucks the lead, but eventually got out of the inning.
The drama was far from over.
The Irish’s Jones led off the seventh with a bloop single up the middle, was sacrificed to second and moved to third on an Anthony Ceretto single to right. Buckeye then caught a huge break when Whaley failed to make contact during a suicide squeeze attempt and Jones was nabbed at third.
Luckily for the Irish, Whaley, who was well on his way to becoming the goat, quickly redeemed himself in a big way with a single that scored Ceretto from second.
But thanks to Metheney, the score didn’t remain that way long.
“Somebody new shows up every time,” Nonamaker said. “This time, it was Tom.”
Buckeye finished the season 10-2 at James H. Tighe Baseball Field.
• The Bucks need two wins to match the 1974 team for second-most in school history. The 1975 team, which reached the Class AA state semifinals and was inducted into the Medina County Sports Hall of Fame, holds the record with 21.
• Kraus struck out 10 and needs six K’s to become the first Medina County pitcher with 100 in a season since Black River’s Jon Shuck in 1991.
Contact Albert Grindle at (330) 721-4043 or firstname.lastname@example.org.