The fourth-seeded Elk County Catholic Crusader baseball squad advanced to the next round of the D9 playoffs with a 5-3 victory over the thirteenth-seeded Venango Catholic Vikings on Tuesday afternoon at Berwind Park in a game that was briefly delayed twice, once due to rain and then again due to thunder.
"We put the ball in play a lot of times and hit at people and had a couple stolen bases," said ECC coach Tom Zampogna. "A lot of credit goes to (assistant coaches) Russ Daniels and Brad Steinbach. They've been working all year with the kids and they really helped them out a lot in terms of teaching them the game."
Joe Childs started on the mound for ECC and worked three innings, giving up four hits, walking one, and striking out two. Brandon Schlimm worked the final four innings, striking out seven.
"Joe started out pitching really well. It seemed like they (Venango) started to figure out what he was doing, so we made a switch to Brandon," Zampogna said. "Brandon came in and gave them a little different look and did what he had to do. I thought Brandon pitched really well."
Jared Ruth went the distance on the mound for the Vikings, giving up six hits, walking five, and striking out four.
"The pitcher from Venango Catholic, I thought he threw a good game," Zampogna said. "He did enough to keep everybody off-balance."
"It was a tight game up front. Everyone was going back and forth one run at a time and then we had an inning there to get a couple runs," Zampogna added.
The Crusaders were led offensively by designated hitter Shea Meyer with a home run and an RBI single. Ivan Wortman had a pair of singles, while Pat Brennen and Dan Singer each also singled.
Venango Catholic was led by AJ Toy with a triple and a single. Matt Kuhn and Garrett Hawkins each also singled.
In the top of the first inning, Matt Kuhn started things off with a line drive to ECC shortstop Dan Singer for the Vikings' first out. AJ Toy gave Venango their first hit, sending the ball deep to the area between center and right field for a triple. With a 2-2 count on Ben Guth, the game was delayed for roughly 20 minutes due to a downpour that sent spectators scrambling for their umbrellas and saw the Crusaders rush to put tarps over the pitcher's mound and home plate. Once play resumed, Guth grounded to the shortstop and was thrown out at first on a fielder's choice that scored Toy and put the Vikings up 1-0. In the bottom half of the inning, Pat Brennen walked to put a runner on base for the Crusaders and advanced to second on a fielder's choice that saw Brock McCullough thrown out at first. Dan Singer brought about the second out for ECC as he flied out to the second baseman. A single by Ivan Wortman scored Brennen, but Wortman was left stranded as Jack Herzing flied out to center field, ending the inning with the score tied at 1-all.
Venango's batters went down in order in the top of the second inning. With two outs in the bottom of the second, Vincent Jacob was up to bat when thunder put the game into another 30-minute delay. Once Jacob was finally able to bat, he grounded to the first baseman, who was unable to come up with the ball, allowing Jacob to reach base. With Shea Meyer up to bat, Jacob stole second and was able to score as Meyer singled. Pat Brennen singled and picked up an extra base on an error, and Meyer also advanced to third on the play. Both were left stranded, though, as McCullough flied out to center field with the Crusaders holding on to the 2-1 lead.
The Vikings tied things up again in the top of the third. With two outs, Kuhn reached base on a single and advanced to second on a single by Toy. Guth hit another shot to the shortstop, who overthrew to first, allowing Guth to safely reach base, Toy to reach third, and Kuhn to score. The next batter, Jonah James, flied out to center field to end the top of the inning with the score tied at 2-all. The Crusaders retook the lead in the bottom of the inning. Singer and Wortman both walked, and each picked up another base on a passed ball. With one out, Joe McLaughlin flied out to left field and Singer scored on the play to make the score 3-2 in favor of ECC. Ben Cortina walked to give the Crusaders another base runner, but Jacob flied out to center to end the inning.
Venango Catholic tied the score up for the third and final time in the top of the fourth. Garrett Hawkins singled, stole second, and scored as Jared Ruth reached base on an error. Trevor Diebert walked, advancing Ruth to second, and the Crusaders decided to change pitchers, putting Brandon Schlimm on the mound. With Scott Toy up to bat, Ruth tried to steal third and was thrown out by Crusader catcher Vincent Jacob. Schlimm struck out both Scott Toy and Eric Hidinger to prevent the Vikings from pulling ahead and end the top of the inning with the score knotted at 3-all. ECC took over the lead for good in the home half of the inning. Meyer was the first up to bat and, after fouling off twice, hit a home run over the left field fence. Brennen followed that up with a walk but was thrown out at second on a fielder's choice that saw McCullough reach base. McCullough stole second and later third, and Singer also reached base on a single. A single by Wortman scored McCullough and advanced Singer to third, giving the Crusaders runners on both corners. Herzing loaded the bases with a walk, but ECC was unable to keep the momentum going as McLaughlin struck out and Cortina flied out to center field, ending the inning with the Crusaders holding on to a 5-3 advantage.
Batters for both teams went down in order in the fifth and sixth innings, and Schlimm struck out all three Venango batters in the top of the seventh to secure the Crusaders' 5-3 win.
The Crusaders will advance to the next round of the District 9 playoffs and will face Port Allegany at Berwind Park on Thursday at a time to be announced. Port defeated DuBois Central Catholic 6-4 on Tuesday afternoon.
In other playoff action, the top-seeded Johnsonburg Rams remained undefeated after beating the 16th-seeded Ridgway Elkers 3-0; 15th-seeded Brockway defeated 2nd-seeded Oswayo Valley 13-5; 14th-seeded Clarion-Limestone defeated 3rd seed Cranberry 14-9; 7th seed Clarion defeated 10th-seeded Union 10-2; 8th-seeded Smethport beat 9th-seeded Keystone 10-5; and 6th-seeded Coudersport defeated 11th-seeded A-C Valley 10-0 in six innings.
Venango Catholic 3
Matt Kuhn 3-1-1, AJ Toy 3-1-2, Ben Guth 3-0-0, Jonah James 3-0-0, Garrett Hawkins 3-1-1, Jared Ruth 3-0-0, Trevor Diebert 2-0-0, Scott Toy 3-0-0, Eric Hidinger 3-0-0. Totals 26-3-4.
Elk Catholic 5
Pat Brennen 2-1-1, Brock McCullough 4-1-0, Dan Singer 3-1-1, Ivan Wortman 3-0-2, Jack Herzing 2-0-0, Joe McLaughlin 3-0-0, Ben Cortina 2-0-0, Vincent Jacob 3-1-0, Shea Meyer 3-1-2, Joe Childs 0-0-0. Totals 25-5-6.
Score by innings R
Venango 101 100 0 3
ECCHS 111 200 x 5