READING >> The Wilson Bulldogs won four baseball games last season and finished dead last in Section 1 of the BCIAA.
Wednesday night, Sal Raccuglia’s club walked off the turf at First Energy Stadium champions of Berks County. Wilson got there with a 13-4 conquest of Twin Valley in the championship game.
Cam Weigand drove in six runs, Collin Foster pitched effectively, and the Bulldogs took full advantage of Twin Valley’s defensive meltdown to capture the crown. The Raiders had four errors in a brutal fourth inning (and three at-bats in a row inside that) that allowed Wilson to plate seven runs, all unearned, to bust open what had been a tight 2-1 game.
TV suffered six miscues in all, leaving starter Zach Rice with nine runs allowed, but only one earned.
The victory capped a remarkable turnaround for the Wilson program, which clocked its 10th Berks County title overall, but first in a decade, with Wednesday’s win over the Raiders.
Wilson’s first Berks League title since 2007 was formulated in what Raccuglia called the program’s “come to Jesus” meeting, held last July after the conclusion of the summer Legion season. It involved the coaches and the players and Wilson’s eighth-year skipper credits the summit for kick-starting the revival.
“We always tell our kids that if you want the respect, you’ve got to win championships,” Raccuglia said. “That’s what our other sports do and we wanted to follow suit.
“We all sat down and talked. I laid out a plan. ‘Here’s when you’re gonna have breaks, here’s when I need you to walk hard. If you want this bad enough, then you’re with me.’ The first time I showed up after that, there were 25 guys in the gym – 95 degrees, 7 o’clock in the morning.”
The progress was steady, but almost stealthy, if you will. Wilson came into the title game with a 15-7 overall mark but finished just 6-4 in Berks 1, behind Governor Mifflin and Daniel Boone. The Bulldogs had to beat both – Boone in the quarterfinals and Mifflin in Monday night’s semifinal -- just to get here.
Twin Valley’s path was similar – third in Berks 2 during the regular season, behind Oley Valley and Fleetwood, then beating both to reach.
Unfortunately for the Raiders, defense was an issue all night in the title game. During that bottom of the fourth, Wilson sent 11 batters to plate and had seven come around to score, on only four hits. Three straight infield errors and a toss into center field from the catcher were compounded by the snowball effect of followup RBI base hits from Weigand, Foster and Chase Zurawski.
“The only thing we accomplished there was that we put the ball in play,” Ruccuglia said.
Rice was left with unfortunate pitching line of four IP, five hits, nine runs allowed, one earned. The Raiders trailed 9-1 when the inning was over.
“At one point we had as many errors as hits,” TV head coach Chad Walters said. “I thought our pitching was fine to that point. Wilson put the ball in play and we didn’t make plays. Funny thing about baseball, is sometimes one thing happens and then every ball after that finds a hole and it all gets compounded.
“Give those guys (Wilson) credit. Good group of kids. Make you work.”
Weigand’s night was prolific. He went 4-for-5 with six runs driven in, including a two-run single and two-run triple. He also reached on an error.
“I saw the ball good, I felt good,” the junior third baseman said. “I tried to hit liners, especially in the last at-bat (the triple).
“This title for the program is huge. From going 4-16 to winning a county title, that’s pretty impressive. Our seniors led the way. We’ve been going hard, every morning, since last (summer). We just put in the work.”
Twin Valley rallied from that disastrous fourth to score three runs in fifth inning, the big blow a two-run single from Rice with bases loaded. But Hunter McInaw’s followup RBI single also featured the third out at the plate, on a brilliant throw from center by Dalton Emerich to catcher Zurawski to nail Rice at the plate.
Wilson tagged reliever Ethan Leslie for four reply runs in the bottom of the fifth for the final margin.
Wilson 13, Twin Valley 4
at First Energy Stadium
Twin Valley - 0 0 1 0 3 0 0 -- 4 8 6
Wilson - 2 0 0 7 4 0 x -- 13 8 1
WP: Collin Foster LP: Zach Rice
W, Foster (Jaden Himmelreich 5th) and Chase Zurawski; TV, Rice (Ethan Leslie 5th) and Dom Kennedy
2B: W, Matt Fiorini; TV, Colin Hartey
3B: W, Cameron Weigand