NANTICOKE — It’s been almost one week since Back Mountain American has seen live-game pitching and felt the pressure of an actual contest.
Well, not much has changed in one week’s time.
Will McCrum, Todd Phillips, Frankie Nockley and Jack Lukasavage all hit home runs as BMA scored 10 runs in the first three innings and cruised to an 11-7 victory over District 17 champion Dunmore in the opening game of the Section 5 Major Little League Tournament at Nanticoke Area.
The win vaults Back Mountain into today’s winner bracket final to face off with either District 16 champ Nanticoke Area or District 32 champ Archbald.
BMA was coming off a 14-2 victory over Kingston/Forty Fort in the District 31 championship, a game where Back Mountain ripped 13 hits.
Those sticks were still blazing hot one week later, ripping a total of 17 hits.
“It’s good to see the kids practicing well. This is a hard-working group,” Back Mountain American manager Joe Phillips said. “These kids never get big heads. They just come to work and play hard. Those early runs are certainly important because it gives you a lot of confidence. Hitting is contagious.”
No doubt, the long ball changed the complexion of the entire game.
McCrum’s two-run shot in the first gave American the early edge.
Todd Phillips matched his teammate with a long ball the ensuing frame that touched the top of the trees in center.
Just like that, Back Mountain already put up four runs against a Dunmore squad that rolled through District 17 play.
Dunmore, which only needed two wins in its three-team elimination bracket, outscored the opposition 49-6 in its four pool games.
“Obviously, this was a big game, but we have been here before. We were pretty relaxed and ready,” McCrum said. “The home run was big. It’s always important to get those early runs. It helps to calm everyone down.”
The big blow came in the third.
Nockley started off the fireworks display with a solo shot and Lukasavage joined in the fun, adding a three-run dinger of his own.
When it was all said and done, Back Mountain put a crooked number, six, on the scoreboard and was off and running toward the winner’s bracket final, leading 10-3.
“That was my first home run, so it felt pretty good to round the bases,” Lukasavage said. “I knew it had a chance. I hit it right off the barrel. It felt really good. I was so excited.”
Justin Finarelli got the victory for BMA, working just three innings. He would be available later in the tournament should his number be called.
In all, Joe Phillips used a total of five pitchers to save most of his rotation for later in the tournament.
“The pitching decisions are tough because you have to roll the dice sometimes with the pitch-count numbers,” coach Phillips said. “We are confident in all of our pitchers. We were fortunate. We made some tough decisions, and they worked in our favor.”
Dunmore had its golden opportunity to turn the game around in the fourth, but couldn’t capitalize.
With bases loaded and no outs, Lucas McGeehan buckled down. He coaxed a long sacrifice fly by Danny Walsh for the first out, and forced Jayden Buckley into a double play to end any threats.
A big chance quickly erased as Back Mountain American kept their five-run lead.
“Right now, it is survive and advance,” McCrum said. “You just have to leave it out on the field and play as hard as you could.”