Whiteoak's Landon Barnett collected both of the Wildcats' two hits and pitched four innings in their regional semifinal against Berlin Hiland. (HCP Photos/Stephen Forsha)
Whiteoak's Landon Barnett collected both of the Wildcats' two hits and pitched four innings in their regional semifinal against Berlin Hiland. (HCP Photos/Stephen Forsha)
LANCASTER — It was a tough day at the ballpark for the Whiteoak Wildcats in their Division IV Regional Semifinal game against the Berlin Hiland Hawks, as the Wildcats were shut out, falling in five innings to the hard-hitting Hawks club by a 10-0 score at Beavers Field and wrapping up what was a very successful 2022 season. 

The Wildcats finish the season with 21 wins and 10 losses, as they were champions of the Frontier Athletic Conference (Div. II), plus they won a sectional championship and a district title — their first since 2018 and their third since 2013. 

Whiteoak was also ranked 13th in the state for Division IV in the final coaches poll. 

“We knew coming they (Hiland) were going to swing the bats, and it is hard when you don’t have common opponents, but they swing the bats probably better than most teams if not all of the teams we played this year, and that’s OK,” WHS head coach Chris Veidt said. “With that being said, I was asked yesterday what the key to this game was, and I said if we win the freebie war, we’ll win this game. I’m not saying that was the case today, but they are a hitting machine, and that’s what they did (Thursday). 

“We opened the floodgates a little bit more than we should have. I think we got a little anxious as a team about the fourth inning offensively and defensively to be honest with you. The floodgates opened, and here we are. 

“It is no fault against our kids. I think it really goes back to more of an experience issue than anything else. That wasn’t the same mental makeup for us. I didn't feel like collectively like it was throughout the course of the district tournament. When you play on this stage and it is the first time you’ve been here, sometimes it is easy to get anxious, and that’s what occurred. Hopefully it is a lesson learned.”

One game doesn’t make the entire season, as WHS was held to two hits — both by junior Landon Barnett — and the team committed four errors, including two in the bottom of the second inning, which at the time increased the Hawks’ lead to 4-0, as Hiland scored three runs in the first inning. 

As for that first inning, in the top of the first Luken Roades walked and stole second base. Barnett hit a single, then next came outs via two strikeouts and a fielder’s choice to end the inning for WHS. 

In the bottom of the first, Hiland opened with a lead-off double to centerfield off the bat of Grant Miller, followed by an RBI single to right field by Cody Yoder, scoring Miller for the first run of the game. 

The Hawks continued their half of the first with a base hit to left field by Nolan Yoder, and Cody Yoder then went to third base on a fly ball out to centerfield. Next was a sacrifice fly to left field, scoring Cody Yoder. The lead went to 3-0 against Whiteoak with a double to centerfield by Dakota Miller, scoring Nolan Yoder. 

Hiland added one run in the second with Colin Coblentz (who walked to leadoff the inning) crossed home plate after advancing to third on an infield error, and scoring off another error by Whiteoak for a 4-0 lead over WHS. 

In the top of the third, Barnett hit a two-out infield single to the shortstop. Barnett stole second base but was left stranded at second as the inning ended with a strikeout.

Hiland’s third inning saw the high-powered offense score another run, as Tony Yoder hit an infield single with one out. He scored off a two-out triple hit by Coblentz to right field, giving the Hawks a 5-0 lead. 

After Whiteoak was retired in order, Hiland took advantage of another Wildcat error, as an infield error on a fly ball led to Nolan Yoder being safe at first with one out. Next, a double to centerfield by Jeff Todaro plated Nolan Yoder. 

Todaro advanced to third on a passed ball, and following a four-pitch walk to Alec Weaver, Miller knocked in Todaro from third with a ground ball to first base, giving the Hawks a 7-0 lead. 

WHS was retired in order again in the top of the fifth, and when Hiland went to the plate in the bottom of the fifth, that’s when they sealed the win. 

Hiland began the inning with a single to centerfield by Isaak Yoder, then went to second on an errant pickoff attempt. Coblentz followed with a double to left-centerfield, batting in Isaak Yoder for an eight-run lead. 

Next was a flyball out to right field, then Cody Yoder went to first base after a HBP. Then came an infield single by Nolan Yoder, and the next out came with an RBI when Todaro hit a sacrifice fly to left field, scoring Coblentz and a 9-0 lead.

The regional semifinal game ended when Miller smashed a single through the middle of the infield, scoring Cody Yoder for the 10-0 run-rule win over Whiteoak. 

The loss was charged to starting pitcher Connor Butler, and also pitching for the Wildcats was Barnett, who went four innings in relief. 

Butler is also the lone senior on the Wildcats’ roster, and Coach Veidt spoke very highly of the senior.

“I’m telling you, if I could mold a kid to play for me he’d (Connor) would be the one,” Veidt said. “He worked his tail off after his freshman year, plays summer ball, plays fall ball, killed himself in the weight room and still does. He has a 3.9 GPA, 26 ACT, and every year he got better and better.

“Just the jump he made between last year and this year was really incredible. He was first-team All-District, arguably one of the Top 3 players in our conference, he won eight games on the mound. He’s a Wildcat, period. That’s what a Wildcat does.”

Veidt also spoke about the team as a whole. 

“The jump we made from last year to this year is a maturity thing, not only physically, but mentally. We had some breakdowns today, but collectively we battled throughout the district tournament and that was no joke, and our competition was no joke either,” Veidt said. “The thing about these guys are they are always going to work, and most of them lift, and all of them play summer ball, and most of them will play fall ball.

“They will come back better and not only will they come back better physically, but the experience of just getting here. They’ve now been here, they know what it looks like and they know what the competition is like. We’ve been here as a program before, and we’ve won out here before. They know, because a lot of those kids had brothers and family members here, so there is some motivation there too. 

“Today just wasn’t our day, and they’ll be back. They are workers, they are thinkers.”