Patriots knocked off by top-seed Cougars

Last updated: May 24. 2014 2:59PM - 1442 Views
By Tom Robinson For the Sunday Dispatch

Pittston Area's Michael Schwab takes off for first base against Wyoming Area.
Pittston Area's Michael Schwab takes off for first base against Wyoming Area.
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Valley View kept coming up with ways to put runners on base.

Pittston Area kept finding ways to wipe them away.

The Patriots led twice and extended the top-seeded Cougars to 10 innings before falling to the Lackawanna League Division 1 champions, 3-2, in Tuesday’s District 2 Class AAA baseball quarterfinals.

Pittston Area had its season come to an end on a day when it produced some of its best baseball of the season, particularly on defense.

“We were playing the game the way I’ve been asking them to play it all year,” Pittston Area coach Paul Zaffuto said.

In the seventh inning alone, Valley View gained opportunities from two walks, two wild pitches, a passed ball and an error, but Pittston Area wiped away the chances as quickly as it gave them.

Valley View stranded seven runners and had seven more removed from the bases, five of them from scoring position.

“There’s not much to be sad about because we played the game just as well as anybody,” Zaffuto said. “As far as I’m concerned, that could have been a district title game.

“We had two outstanding pitchers on the mound on the other side, both going to Division I. Max (Kranick) was throwing the ball in the low 90s and (Collin Ferguson) had total control of the game.

“It’s sad that it’s over right when you get them to finally realize that that’s how the game’s played.”

The winning run finally scored after Pittston Area just missed an inning-ending double play in the bottom of the 10th, getting just the forceout and leaving runners on the corners with two outs. Connor Kranick then came home when Danny Constantino, who did not allow a hit in three innings of relief, threw a low curveball for a wild pitch that catcher Tyler McGarry could not handle.

Double plays and McGarry’s play behind the plate had helped shut Valley View down to that point.

Pittston Area turned three flyballs into double plays and McGarry technically caught three base stealers, although each came from a variety of methods.

Second baseman Kyle O’Fier ended the first inning by catching a line drive and throwing to first. Right fielder Josh Razvillas made a running, jumping catch in the gap to turn what would have been a go-ahead double by Connor Kranick into a double play to end the fifth inning.

The eighth inning ended on a flyball to center fielder Mike Delaney when Robert Nardelli was called out an appeal for leaving second base too early to advance to third.

In between, McGarry went to work after Max Kranick’s double and Nardelli’s single forced a 2-2 tie in the bottom of the sixth.

Four straight runners reached in the sixth and seventh innings for Valley View, but that resulted in just one run total.

McGarry caught Nardelli leading off too far from second with two men on in the sixth and ran at him until eventually creating a rundown.

The Cougars had two men on with none out to start the seventh before McGarry picked off Mitchell McHale taking too big of a lead.

Valley View coach Jason Munley tried to squeeze in the winning run in the seventh, but reliever Michael Schwab delivered a low pitch that Ferguson could not bunt. McGarry handled the pitch and, despite an excellent slide by Brandon Brzenski to make the play close, prevented the game-ending run from scoring.

Schwab erased another runner while playing left field in the fourth inning when he threw behind Dominic Bordo rounding second base on a Corey Peters single.

“They battled and we made a couple base-running mistakes,” Munley said. “We’ve had some trouble scoring runs, but we’ve been getting great pitching all year.”

Pittston Area had less chances but also stranded five runners and lost four on the bases, including two in the first inning when it broke in front with three straight hits.

Schwab followed singles by McGarry and Joe Champi with an RBI double into the right-field corner to score Champi with the first run. Schwab was then called out at third on a close play when trying to advance on the throw home.

Pittston Area took its second lead in the sixth inning with Schwab again delivering the RBI as part of his 5-for-7 effort with a walk during the two district games.

Razvillas followed his defensive gem by leading off with a single, moving to second on a McGarry sacrifice, taking third on a wild pitch and scoring on Schwab’s hit down the left-field line.

An attempt to steal home with runners on the corners in the top of the 10th inning erased Pittston Area’s last scoring chance against Max Kranick, who pitched three scoreless innings of relief for the win.

O’Fier and Delaney also had hits for Pittston Area.

Matt Mott started and worked six strong innings. He gave up two runs on seven hits while walking two and striking out three. Two of the hits he allowed went off infielders’ gloves and he did not allow a clean hit to the outfield until his last inning.

The several runners erased on the bases on close plays and rundowns led to a tension-filled game in which players exchanged words and one Valley View reserve was ejected. After the teams completing their separate meetings with coaches, an altercation broke out when a Valley View player entered the Pittston Area dugout.

Law enforcement and school officials broke up the incident, which briefly included at least one fan.

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