It's always exciting for high school baseball teams to have the opportunity to play under the lights. It does not happen all that often in town but, due to some weather delays and generous donors, Elk County Catholic High School and St. Marys Area High School had the opportunity to do just that an opening-round game of the Elk County Boys' Baseball Tournament on Friday. The two teams did not disappoint. Once they were finally able to play, they both put up a good fight, heading into the seventh inning with the score tied at 6-all. The Dutchmen would use a grand slam by Branden Tyger to take the 10-6 victory and advance to face the Johnsonburg Rams in the championship game today.
St. Marys Area took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first. ECC rallied right back in the bottom half of the inning with a pair of runs to go up 2-1. The Dutchmen retook the lead in the top of the fourth with three more runs, but again the Crusaders came right back in the bottom of the inning with four runs of their own to retake the lead. St. Marys tied things up with two runs in the sixth, and then put the game away with four runs in the seventh.
Following the game, St. Marys Area coach Tony Azzato was excited about his team's rally and appreciative of the anonymous donors who made playing the game possible.
"We had some local, anonymous donors that put some money toward this for us to be able to get this in and the kids just took it from there," Azzato said. "We started off getting the run in the first inning and then we kind of died off for a bit. Then, once we started going, we kept our composure."
ECC coach Tom Zampogna cited a loss of focus as a problem late in the game for his squad.
"We seemed to have lost a little bit of focus there in the last half of the game," Zampogna said. "St. Marys kept battling back and we gave them the door. We left the door open for them, and they came in with a big hit in the seventh inning and sort of took the life out of us."
The Dutchmen had 11 hits in the contest, led by Branden Tyger with his grand slam and a pair of singles. Brandon Vollmer recorded a triple and a single. Mitch Meyer, Dalton Kline, and Justin Beimel all had a pair of singles.
"We had a bunch of big hits: Justin Beimel's hit to tie the game, Brandon Vollmer's triple to put us up, and obviously Branden Tyger's huge grand slam at the end," Azzato said.
The Crusaders had six hits, including a three-run home run by Brock McCullough in the fourth inning. Vincent Jacob hit a triple; Ben Cortina recorded a double; and Pat Brennen, Joe McLaughlin, and Jack Herzing all singled.
"The kids made a lot of nice plays," Zampogna said. "They played well and had a lot of good at bats, but we sort of erased a lot of that with some bad plays on the field."
Quinn Cunningham started on the mound for St. Marys, working four innings and giving up all six of the Crusaders' hits, walking two, and striking out four. Justin Beimel worked the final three innings, walking one and striking out four.
"Justin was huge coming out of the bullpen. He did what we needed him to. He threw strikes and kept the ball down. He kept his pitch count down, so we have him available tomorrow too," Azzato said.
Brandon Schlimm started on the mound for the Crusaders and also worked four innings, giving up seven hits, walking four, and striking out four. Ben Cortina worked the final three innings, giving up four hits, walking two, and striking out one.
In the top of the first inning, Schlimm walked Dutchman Mitch Meyer and had two strikes on Dalton Kline when the game was put on a 30-minute delay for thunder. Play was about to resume, with Schlimm back on the mound ready to throw out his next pitch, when the thunder and lightning started again, further delaying the contest. The game, which originally was scheduled to get under way at 4:30 p.m., finally got back under way for good at 6:45 p.m. According to an announcement made by SMAHS Activities Director Terry Straub, "with the generosity of the St. Marys Area Baseball Boosters, along with several private donors," the funds had been secured to pay for turning on the lights for the contest." Once the game finally started again, Meyer stole second and advanced to third on a play that saw Kline ground out to the second baseman. Branden Tyger struck out, giving the Dutchmen two outs in the inning. A catcher's interference call put Brandon Vollmer on base and he advanced on a single by Justin Beimel that also scored Meyer, giving St. Marys an early 1-0 lead. ECC answered immediately in the bottom of the inning. Vincent Jacob hit a triple deep to left field and scored on a single by Pat Brennen. With two outs, Joe McLaughlin singled, advancing Brennen to third. Jack Herzing then reached base on an error that also allowed Brennen to score, giving the Crusaders a 2-1 lead.
Neither team was able to push any runs through in the second or third innings.
With two outs in the top of the fourth, Meyer walked, advanced on a single by Kline, and scored on a single by Tyger. A triple by Vollmer also scored both Kline and Tyger, putting St. Marys back on top 4-2. ECC again answered right back in the bottom of the inning. McLaughlin walked and advanced on a single by Herzing. Both then scored on a home run by Brock McCullough. Ben Cortina hit a double and also later scored, giving the Crusaders a 6-4 advantage.
After a scoreless fifth inning, the Dutchmen pushed two more runs through in the top of the sixth to tie things up. Luke Schrieber reached base on an error, but was out at second on a fielder's choice that saw Meyer reach base. Meyer advanced on a single by Kline and both were able to score later in the inning on a single by Beimel, knotting things up at 6-all. The Crusaders went down in order in the bottom half of the inning.
St. Marys retook the lead for good in the top of the seventh. With one out, Quinn Cunningham reached base on an error and advanced on an error that also saw Schreiber reach base. Both picked up another spot on a single by Meyer, loading the bases for the Dutchmen. A fielder's choice by Kline saw Cunningham thrown out at home, preventing St. Marys from taking the lead. However, on the next play Tyger hit his grand slam, giving the Dutchmen a 10-6 advantage. The Crusaders were unable to rally in the bottom half of the inning, allowing St. Marys to come away with the 10-6 victory.
The Dutchmen are now 5-10 on the season and will face the undefeated Johnsonburg Rams in the championship game today at Berwind Park at 10 a.m. Johnsonburg defeated Ridgway 15-5 in six innings in the other-opening round contest. The Crusaders are now 8-5 on the season and will face Ridgway in the consolation game, which is scheduled for 12 p.m.
St. Marys 10
Mitch Meyer 3-4-2, Dalton Kline 5-3-2, Branden Tyger 5-2-3, Brandon Vollmer 3-0-2, David Aul 0-0-0, Justin Beimel 4-0-2, Robert Watts 3-0-0, Rudy Gleixner 4-0-0, Quinn Cunningham 4-0-0, Luke Schreiber 3-1-0. Totals 34-10-11.
Elk Catholic 6
Vincent Jacob 3-1-1, Pat Brennen 3-1-1, Dan Singer 3-0-0, Ivan Wortman 4-0-0, Joe McLaughlin 3-1-1, Jack Herzing 3-1-1, Brock McCullough 3-1-1, Ben Cortina 3-0-0, Brandon Schlimm 0-0-0, Shea Meyer 1-0-0, Wes Brennen 2-0-0. Totals 28-6-6.
Score by innings R
St. Marys 100 302 4 10
ECCHS 200 400 0 6