By Scott Dudinskie
The Daily Item
COCOLAMUS -- John Wilson was living on the edge Saturday.
It wasn't as dangerous as it sounds. In fact, there was hardly a threat to him whatsoever.
The Southern Columbia sophomore threw a two-hit shutout at East Juniata in a District 4 Class AA quarterfinal, 5-0, painting the outside edge of the plate with the vast majority of his 104 pitches.
The sixth-seeded Tigers (17-5) scored five two-out runs to back Wilson and advance to a Tuesday semifinal against No. 7 Hughesville.
"I felt pretty good about the two (first-inning runs) with (Wilson) on the hill," said Southern Columbia coach Randy Young. "He's been effective all year."
The tall lefty didn't simply focus on the outer half of the plate against East Juniata's right-handed-heavy batting order. Wilson wore out the outside black and beyond, trying to coax off-balance swings and weak balls off the bats of third-seeded Tigers. When he came inside, it was with authority which wrecked the hitters' timing.
"Their pitcher just threw a dandy game," said East Juniata coach Tim Brubaker, whose team hadn't been blanked this season. "He kept moving the ball and kept us off-balance. He was just on and we didn't hit him."
Wilson gave up a two-out single in the third to Dalton Rowe, who was promptly caught stealing, and leadoff hit in the fifth erased by a fielder's choice. He struck out six and 10 other outs were hit to the right side of the field or back to the mound, with East Juniata protecting the edge of the plate.
"If you can locate the outside corner -- and the ump gives it to you -- it's usually a nice pitch," Wilson said.
What made Wilson's approach all the more impressive was he stayed on the corner with little regard for falling behind in the count or putting a batter on base via a walk. He ran eight three-ball counts but walked only two hitters, and he threw first-pitch strikes to just 10 of 25 batters.
"When you get behind, you can't flustered," he said. "My defense helped me out -- because you've got to put the ball over the plate more when you're behind. They made some big plays."
Wilson admitted Southern's first-inning runs helped him relax more than his own 1-2-3 first inning.
The first of Taylor Young's three hits was followed by two-out RBI singles from Tyler Behrent and Blake Marks.
In the third, Mason Peters and Young singled with one out before Behrent came through again for a 3-0 lead.
Then, after failing to score in the fourth with one out and the bases loaded, Southern filled the sacks again in the fifth with two down. Seven-hole-hitter Nate Hunter rocked a 1-2 fastball to left field, past a diving Rowe, to make it 5-0.
"They were all big hits," Randy Young said. "All of them had confidence in their swings, and none of them were really ropes with the exception of Hunter. They were all just, Get a single; try to get that run in."
Hunter's two-run double prompted Brubaker relieve one Tri-Valley League first team all-star (Ryan Stuck) with another (Nick Lorenz). The junior right-hander got out of the fifth with a strikeout and finished with four over 2 1/3 scoreless innings.
"The decision (of who to start) was made strictly on the defense we could put on the field," said Brubaker. "I felt with Nick at short and our guys in their regular positions, we were stronger. That was the deciding factor."
Brubaker said East Juniata (14-5) finished one win short of two goals: the TVL title (won by Halifax) and a trip to Bowman Field.
"Overall, we had a really good season," he added. "There were just good teams we ran into that beat us."