Pechulis’ game-saving stab highlights day of web gems that keep perfect season intact.

Last updated: July 24. 2013 1:35AM - 1858 Views
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HANOVER TWP. — A laser. A lunge. And loud gasps of disbelief.

In one amazing instant, Joe Pechulis changed destiny. And once again, it wound up in the web of a Swoyersville glove.

Pechulis’ spectacular diving catch at third base kept the game scoreless Tuesday morning until Ryan Hogan’s bat accounted for a couple of runs as unbeaten Swoyersville stung Greater Pittston again, 4-2, in a pivotal American Legion Region 5 baseball tournament game at Hanover Area High School.

“Oh, our defense is definitely underrated,” said Pechulis, who helped Swoyersville reach today’s tournament final with his amazing catch with two runners in scoring position, and later, by poking a run-scoring single. “Everybody talks about our hitting, and of course, our pitching. But we work hard at improving our defense.”

It showed.

And it sent 23-1 Swoyersville into the Region 5 championship final, despite a 10-8 loss to Jersey Shore later Tuesday. Jersey Shore will face Greater Pittston at 11 a.m. today at Hanover Area, and the winner of that game will play Swoyersville at 1:30 p.m. for the Region 5 title and a trip to the state tournament in Boyertown starting July 30.

“No doubt about it,” said Swoyersville manager Sean Toole, whose team took the double-elimination tournament’s upper hand by beating Wyoming Valley league foe Greater Pittston for the third time this season. “We definitely practice hard on defense. You do the little things right, most likely you’re going to win the ballgame.”

From the start, Swoyersville won Tuesday morning’s game with the glove.

Every Swoyersville infielder made a superb play in the victory over Greater Pittston, and the effort even extended into the outfield. Swoyersville right fielder Matt Zielen snared Mike Carey’s shot toward the gap with a spectacular head-first dive on the second batter of the game, then turned it into a double play with a bouncing throw that first baseman Evan McCue cooly smothered before stepping on the bag.

Swoyersville second baseman Mike Leonard backhanded a grounder, stepped on second and made a tough throw across his body to complete a double play in the fifth inning; catcher Ryan Hogan gunned down a baserunner in the fourth; and shortstop Jeremy Worlinsky threw out a batter from deep in the hole in the eighth.

None of those turned heads the way Pechulis did.

With runners on second and third in the third inning of a scoreless game, Greater Pittston’s Jake Granteed sent a bullet that seemed headed to the outfield for a game-breaking blow.

“Probably one of the hardest balls I’ve ever hit,” Granteed sighed.

But Pechulis got in the way of Greater Pittston’s excitement.

Swiveling his 5-foot-11, 225-pound frame like a cheetah, Pechulis instinctively dove to his left, speared the ball for the inning’s second out, and deflated Greater Pittston all in one motion.

“I just reacted,” Penchulis said. “That’s all third base is about — reaction. The first thing I did when I got up, I checked my pants. And I realized I saved about two runs.”

Who would have thought a guy that burly could move to fast?

“I’ve got a lot of faith in Joe on third,” Toole said. “Although he’s a big guy, he’s definitely quick on his feet. That’s why he’s over there.”

In the blink of an eye, Greater Pittston’s upset bid was over.

After Pechulis’ gravity-defying grab, Greater Pittston cleanup hitter Joe Gavenonis was intentionally walked to load the bases, and Swoyesville starter Dan Flaherty wriggled out of the jam by inducing an inning-ending popup.

“Pechulis … that was a great play,” said Greater Pittston manager Jerry Ranieli, whose team dropped two one-run games to Swoyersville during the Wyoming Valley league season. “That ball was smoked and he made a great play on it. You’ve got to tip your hat to him.”

Not long after, the game tipped in Swoyersville’s favor.

Mike Leonard began a three-run rally in the bottom of the third inning when he drew a walk, moved to second on a passed ball and then charged to third base on a fake bunt attempt by Nick Hogan. With nobody covering the third-base bag for Greater Pittston, Leonard easily stole the base and continued home with the game’s first run when the throw sailed into left field.

“I saw him running in,” Leonard said of Greater Pittston’s third baseman. “No one was there. Coach said to fake the bunt and see what happens. It worked out perfectly.”

It got even better for Swoyersville when Nick Hogan doubled, then rode home on his brother Ryan Hogan’s long triple to center field. Pechulis followed by sending a flare over shortstop for a run-scoring single that brought Ryan Hogan home.

“It feels great,” Ryan Hogan said. “They were our rivals all year. They thought they were going to kick our (tails). Wasn’t happening.”

It nearly did.

Ryan Hogan’s errant pickoff throw from the catcher’s position put two Greater Pittston runners in scoring position, and they came home when Trent Grove drilled a two-run double in the sixth.

Suddenly, Swoyersville lead was chopped to 3-2.

“When you make a mistake like that, it kills you inside,” Ryan Hogan said. “You just try to come back, help the team as much as you can.”

He helped plenty, driving home Jeremy Sabecky with a single in the seventh to give Swoyersville breathing room. And reliever Billy Gregory never let Greater Pittston up for air by allowing just one hit over the final three innings to earn the save.

“Our hitting is a big point,” Pechulis said. “But when we need a play in the field, we get it.”

Greater Pittston`AB`R`H`RBI`2B`3B`HR

Jordan Zezza rf`3`0`1`0`0`0`0

Mike Carey 2b`3`0`0`0`0`0`0

Jake Granteed 3b`3`1`2`0`1`0`0

Joe Gavenonis p`2`1`0`0`0`0`0

Dylan Maloney 1b`4`0`0`0`0`0`0

Trent Grove c`2`0`1`2`1`0`0

Justin Martinelli ss`4`0`0`0`0`0`0

Marty Cirelli lf`4`0`0`0`0`0`0

Erik Walkowiak cf`2`0`1`0`0`0`0



Mike Leonard 2b`3`1`1`0`0`0`0

Nick Hogan lf`4`1`1`0`1`0`0

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

Joe Pechulis 3b`4`0`1`1`0`0`0

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

Matt Zielen rf`3`0`1`0`0`0`0

Dan Flaherty p`0`0`0`0`0`0`0

Billy Gregory p`0`0`0`0`0`0`0

Matt Labashosky dh`3`0`0`0`0`0`0

Jeremy Worlinsky ss`3`0`0`0`0`0`0

Jeremy Sabecky cf`3`1`1`0`0`0`0


Greater Pittston`000`002`000 - 2

Swoyersville`003`000`10x - 4

LOB - Greater Pittston 7, Swoyersville 7. DP - Swoyersville 2. E - Grove, R. Hogan. Sac - Zezza 2. SB - Zielen 2, Worlinsky, Leonard, Carey, Labashosky. CS - Grove.

Greater Pittston`IP`H`R`ER`BB`SO

Gavenonis, L`8`7`4`4`4`5


Flaherty, W`5`3`2`2`7`2

Gregory, S`4`2`0`0`1`4

PB - Grove 2. WP - Gavenonis 2.

Jersey Shore 10, Swoyersville 8

KINGSTON — Matt Labashosky recorded four hits, including a double, but Swoyersville lost its first game of the season and had its 23-game winning streak snapped by Jersey Shore.

Mike Leonard added two hits, three runs and one RBI, while Nick Hogan chipped in two hits, including a double, one run and an RBI.

Zach DePasqua fueled the Jersey Shore offense with a double, a run and three RBI.

Jersey Shore erased a three-run deficit with a six-run sixth inning to gain an 8-5 advantage.

Swoyersville will face off against the winner of Jersey Shore and Greater Pittston for the Region 5 title today at 1:30 p.m.

Jersey Shore`AB`R`H`BI`2B`3B`HR

Colton Potter ss`2`3`1`0`0`0`0

Boone Costa cf`4`2`2`1`1`0`0

Christian Rishel lf`5`1`2`1`1`0`0

Zach Miller 2b`5`0`0`0`0`0`0

Zach DePasqua p/rf`4`1`1`3`1`0`0

Eric Huling c`5`0`1`1`1`0`0

Chris Glunk rf/p`4`1`0`0`0`0`0

Jordan Bartges 1b`4`1`0`0`0`0`0

Travis Eiswerth 3b`5`1`2`1`0`0`0



Mike Leonard ss`4`3`2`1`0`0`0

Nick Hogan lf`5`1`2`1`1`0`0

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

Joe Pechulis 3b/1b`2`0`1`1`0`0`0

Evan Mccue 1b/p`5`1`1`0`0`0`0

Matt Zielen rf`5`1`0`0`0`0`0

Matt Labashosky 2b/3b`5`1`4`1`1`0`0

Jeremy Worlinsky p/2b`4`0`0`1`0`0`0

Jeremy Sabecky cf`4`1`1`0`0`0`0


Jersey Shore`200`106`100`- 10

Swoyersville`200`301`200`- 8

Jersey Shore`IP`H`R`ER`BB`SO

Zach DePasqua, W`7`12`8`7`3`10

Chris Glunk, S`2`0`0`0`1`0


Jeremy Worlinsky, L`5.2`7`9`7`7`4

Evan Mccue`3.1`2`1`1`0`3

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