Hard charge by Nanticoke gets nixed in championship

Last updated: July 23. 2014 11:57PM - 1596 Views
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Pa. State Legion Tournament

at Boyertown, Tuesday July 29

MANSFIELD — One big game by Nanticoke standout Mike Bugonovicz in the regional finals slapped Swoyersville with its first loss of the season.

Evan McCue wasn’t going to let it happen again.

McCue smoked three singles and accounted for two runs Wednesday and Chris Nixon finished his complete-game pitching performance with a season-saving strikeout as Swoyersville held off Nanticoke, 4-3 in the Pennsylvania American Legion Region 5 baseball championship at Mansfield University’s Shaute Field.

“I knew it was crucial,” said McCue, who went 6 for 7 in a doubleheader that was forced when Nanticoke took the first game of the finals in the double-elimination tournament with a surprising 6-4 victory. “I knew I was swinging a hot bat. I had to step up.”

Because he did, 23-1 Swoyersville will step into this weekend’s double-elimination state tournament at Boyertown as the Region 5 champion.

But not before suffering a major scare from Nanticoke.

After tormenting Swoyersville in Wednesday’s first game by pitching Nanticoke to victory and accounting for three of the six runs, Bugonovicz began bugging Swoyersville again.

He reached second base on a one-out error in the ninth inning, then moved to third base on a groundout.

“Ninety feet away,” Bugonovicz sighed, “and one little hit would have given you a chance to advance to states.”

Nixon made sure it never came.

The former Wyoming Valley West and current Wilkes University righthander reached back to end the suspense with his fourth strikeout, polishing off his second nine-inning complete-game gem of the regional tournament while allowing just one earned run.

“I think I pitched a little better,” Nixon said. “It’s something you would want to be in. That’s the most fun, when something’s on the line, and there’s a wager there.”

Bugonovicz waged his own personal battle against Swoyersville in the opener.

Facing a team that was previously unbeaten in 22 games and had already won three meetings with Nanticoke this season, Bugonovicz baffled Swoyersville by consistently changing speeds as well as location.

“That’s the game I knew I had to throw,” Bugonovicz said. “Their whole lineup has power, one through nine. With them being such a good hitting team, I knew they were going to put the ball in play. I trusted my defense. They made the plays behind me.”

Bugonovicz earned that 6-4 win by battling through seven-plus innings without a strikeout, but without any walks, either. He also walked and scored the game’s first run on an error in the second inning of the opener, and later drove home runs with a single and a sacrifice fly.

“He was lights-out,” said Nanticoke coach Joe Yudichak, who removed Bugonovicz from the mound with a big hug in the seventh inning and turned the ball over to John Wickiser for the save.

That first loss of a superb season not only forced a winner-take-all second game between the teams just 30 minutes later, it stung Swoyersville.

“That was our first tight game in awhile and obviously our first loss,” McCue said. “That wasn’t easy to take.”

Swoyersville got over that shock quickly.

Mike Leonard, Jeremy Worlinsky and Matt Labashosky stroked three straight singles in Swoyersville’s three-run second inning that also included Justin Montalvo’s RBI sacrifice bunt that brought McCue home and put Nanticoke in a 3-0 hole.

“Just have confidence in yourself that you were an undefeated team all season,” Swoyersville manager Sean Toole said he told his club between games, “and you can come back and respond and play the baseball you played all year long.”

It seemed McCue was determined to play the hero.

Out of the batting order for a good portion of the summer with tendinitis in his right hand, McCue slugged a run-scoring single that brought home Ryan Hogan for a 4-1 Swoyersville lead in the sixth inning.

“I was really struggling for awhile, getting my timing down, seeing pitches,” said McCue, who was 3 for 3 in the first game and 3 for 4 in the second and finished with two RBI and two runs scored on the day. “The other day I went 3 for 4, then I came back and went 0-for the next game. I knew today was the day I had to step up and help my guys out.”

It didn’t hurt Swoyersville that their ace pitcher Nixon was cruising along.

He allowed three hits and one run - on Nick Deno’s run-scoring single in the fourth inning - while retiring 13 of 15 batters through the fifth.

“You don’t want to give them any chance,” Nixon said. “That’s what we tried to do, knock them out early.”

Then came the controversy.

With one out in the sixth inning, Nanticoke’s Mike Blazaskie sent a hopper to first base for what appeared to be the inning’s second out. But Blazaskie came up hopping, claiming the ball hit off his foot. And Toole was hopping mad when the umpires agreed and called the ball foul.

“Their coaches thought it hit off his foot. I didn’t,” Toole said. “You have to leave it in the umpire’s hands.”

A couple pitches later, Blazaskie handled a high fastball and drilled a run-scoring triple, then scored himself when Nick Deno reached on an error as Nanticoke closed within 4-3.

“My guys just didn’t give up,” Yudichak said. “I’m really proud of them.”

But Swoyersville was bent on redemption.

After taking an unbeaten season all the way to the last two games of the 2013 Region 5 tourney - and losing both to finish that season short of states - Swoyersville sealed the deal this time.

Nixon finished the game with three hitless innings, surrendering five total hits and one earned run to wrap up a Region 5 title that slipped away from Swoyersville a year ago.

“It’s probably the best feeling in the world,” said McCue, one of a large number of returners from the 2013 Swoyersville Legion team. “Last year was probably the worst feeling. This is awesome, to come back and get this one.”



Jeremy Sabecky cf`4`0`0`0`0`0`0

Chris Lupole ss`4`0`0`0`0`0`0

Ryan Hogan c`4`1`2`0`1`0`0

Mike Leonard 2b`4`1`1`0`0`0`0

Jeremy Worlinsky 3b`4`1`2`1`0`0`0

Evan McCue 1b`4`1`3`1`0`0`0

Matt Labashosky rf`4`0`0`1`0`0`0

Chris Nixon p`0`0`0`0`0`0`0

Bill Gregory dh`4`0`0`0`0`0`0

Justin Montalvo lf`2`0`0`1`0`0`0



Christian Pack ss`4`0`0`0`0`0`0

Mike Sulcoski c`4`1`1`0`0`0`0

John Wickiser p`0`0`0`0`0`0`0

Mike Blazaskie dh`4`2`3`1`0`1`0

Nick Deno 3b`4`0`1`1`0`0`0

Mike Bugonovicz 1b`4`0`0`0`0`0`0

Zac White rf`4`0`0`0`0`0`0

Eric Grzynski cf`4`0`0`0`0`0`0

Morgan Higgs lf`3`0`0`0`0`0`0

Tyler Myers 2b`3`0`0`0`0`0`0


Swoyersville`030`001`000` - 4

Nanticoke`000`102`000` - 3


Nixon, W`9`5`3`1`0`4


Wickiser, L`9`8`4`2`0`1



Christian Pack ss`3`0`1`0`0`0`0

Mike Sulcoski c`4`1`3`0`0`0`0

Mike Blazaskie lf,cf`5`1`2`1`0`0`0

Nick Deno 1b,3b`4`0`0`0`0`0`0

Mike Bugonovicz p,1b`3`1`1`2`0`0`0

Zac White rf`4`1`0`0`0`0`0

John Wickiser cf,p`4`0`1`0`0`0`0

Morgan Higgs 3b`3`0`0`0`0`0`0

Eric Grzynski cf,lf`0`0`0`0`0`0`0

Tyler Myers 2b`3`2`1`0`0`0`0



Jeremy Sabecky cf`5`1`1`0`0`0`0

Chris Lupole ss,p`5`0`0`0`0`0`0

Ryan Hogan c`5`1`2`0`0`0`0

Mike Leonard 2b`4`0`0`0`0`0`0

Jeremy Worlinsky 3b,ss`4`1`3`1`0`0`0

Matt Labashosky rf`5`0`1`1`1`0`0

Evan McCue 1b`3`1`3`1`1`0`0

Logan Zavada p`0`0`0`0`0`0`0

Keaton Dolan dh`3`0`0`0`0`0`0

Bill Gregory 3b`1`0`0`0`0`0`0

Justin Montalvo lf`4`0`0`0`0`0`0


Nanticoke`020`020`002` - 6

Swoyersville`000`012`001` - 4


Bugonovicz, W`7`7`3`2`1`0

Wickiser, S`2`3`1`1`0`0


Zavada, L`8.1`9`6`1`3`2



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