The 2013 Wayne County Teener League season came to an end Thursday evening with one last exciting battle.
Forest City put out the proverbial welcome mat for Honesdale in the rubber match of this best-of-three finals series.
The top-seeded Foresters surged out to an early lead, but the Cinderella Eagles staged a late-game rally that kept fans on the edges of their seats.
However, with the tying run at the plate in the top of the seventh, Forest City ace Jon DeEsch recorded one last strikeout that ended the season and set off a wild celebration in front of the home dugout.
The final score was 9-7.
"It's definitely a bitter sweet feeling," said Eagles skipper Pete Goyette. "We had a great season and got all the way to the finals, but we just couldn't close it out.
"Give Forest City all the credit in the world. We played them five games this season and they beat us four times. I'm very proud of our boys, though. They fought hard and never quit."
With this heartbreaking defeat, Honesdale finished up the campaign with an overall record of 15-4.
Forest City closed out a sensational season by taking 2-of-3 in the finals en route to a 18-1 mark.
Forest City leapt out to a quick lead in this one, tallying four runs in the opening two frames.
DeEsch led off the home first with a single. Dylan O'Dell worked a one-out walk and the two speedy Foresters executed a text book double steal.
This set the stage for Mitchell Blake. Forest City's clean-up man lined a 2-run single to right which gave his team a lead it would never relinquish.
Page 2 of 3 - DeEsch was dominant on the hill in the early innings.
A fireballing right hander, Jon would work all seven innings on his way to a complete game victory. He piled up eight strikeouts and issued just one walk.
Jonathan Werner earned the starting assignment for the Eagles, but was lifted after one inning. Jack Rickard and Julio Galarza each toed the rubber in relief for Honesdale.
All three pitchers were victimized by sometimes porous defense.
"The bottom line is that we made critical errors at critical moments," Coach Goyette said. "Once again, that was the difference in the game."
Extending the Lead
Forest City pushed its advantage to 4-0 with two more runs in the second.
O'Dell delivered the big blow, blasting a long double to left. Honesdale's Clay Hewlett made a valiant effort, but the ball just glanced off the tip of his glove as Kyle Shema and DeEsch raced home.
The Eagles finally broke through, pushing across two runs in the fourth.
Galarza reached on a one-out error. Julio then stole second and scampered home courtesy of Werner's RBI single.
Jon moved up on another Forester miscue. He eventually scored when Hewlett fanned, but reached first safely on a dropped third strike.
Forest City responded quickly, erupting for five runs in the home fifth.
Shema plated a pair with a single to right and DeEsch followed with an RBI base knock to center. The frame's final two runs came home on an infield error.
Honesdale finally kick-started its offense in the top of the sixth.
Page 3 of 3 - The Eagles erupted for five runs in the last two frames before finally running out of gas.
Rickard provided the key hit in the sixth, smoking a 2-run double into the left field corner. Ben Corbin and Grady Birmelin also contributed clutch singles.
Corbin, who would enjoy a 3-for-4 day at the dish, led off the seventh with another basehit. He then swiped second, advanced to third on a fielder's choice and tallied when Hewlett grounded out to second.
With his lead whittled to 9-7 and the tying run at the plate, DeEsch dug down deep one last time.
Jon needed just three pitches to end the game with his eighth strikeout.
So ended a sensational series that saw these two teams meet five times over the course of the regular season and playoffs.
Forest City won four of those meetings, but the Eagles also dealt the Foresters their lone loss of the season. In addition, the total run differential in all those losses was eight runs.
"We are very evenly-matched," Coach Goyette said. "Forest City had a tremendous season and hats off to them. But, we were right there with them every step of the way."
Score by Innings...
HON 0 0 0 2 0 4 1 - 7
FOR 2 2 0 0 5 0 x - 9