ICL CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES: Buzzard, Bovard put Colts in tight spot
BOVARD — Blairsville put so many Bovard batters on base, the Bison couldn’t help but score runs.
It didn’t help Blairsville that Bovard’s Tim Buzzard was dealing, and the Colts fell into a two-games-to-none hole in the best-of-seven Indiana County League championship series, dropping Game 2, 5-3, to Bovard on Friday evening.
Blairsville pitchers walked 10 batters, giving Bovard hitters plenty of opportunities, and the two-time defending champion Bison took advantage of just enough to win their eighth straight championship series game over the last three years.
“They were able to capitalize,” Blairsville player/coach Joe Culler said. “We had a couple miscues in the field and maybe a walk or a hit batsman. They were just able to capitalize with one or two hits, and we didn’t get those one or two hits. That’s the way baseball is sometimes, but I guess that’s why they give us seven games.”
Game 3, a virtual must-win for the Colts (25-7-1), is Sunday in Blairsville.
The start time has been moved to 5 p.m.
Bovard (25-4-1) stranded 13 runners, but still managed to plate five since it got so many on base. Buzzard, a veteran right-hander, made those runs stand with a complete-game, seven-strikeout performance for the win.
“This is pretty much why I still play for these types of games, they’re fun,” Buzzard said. “We go on these little playoff runs, it’s a great time. Good baseball, getting to play every day and getting to pitch in big games, that makes it still fun to come down here. I was excited.”
Buzzard allowed three runs, just one earned, on five hits, while walking four. Blairsville threatened twice in the late innings, putting two runners on in both the sixth and seventh, but Buzzard seemed to pitch better under the pressure.
“He got stronger as the game went on,” Culler said.
“I usually get a little bit stronger as it goes,” Buzzard said.
“I don’t know, though. I felt pretty good the whole time. I thought my location got a little bit better as it went on, and stuff-wise I felt good tonight.
“It was probably about the same (speed) as usual, maybe a couple here and there were a little better. I felt like I had a pretty good breaking ball, and my fastball had some life to it.”
Blairsville struck first, scoring a run in the top of the first, though it left two runners on base. After Bovard took the lead, the Colts pulled back even, 3-3, in the top of the fourth inning.
Bovard, being consistently gifted baserunners, took the lead for good in the bottom of the fourth on Zack Martin’s RBI double.
Blairsville pitchers Jordan Truscott and Bobby Gaston walked five batters each, so when the Bison’s six hits fell in, they often did damage.
“We didn’t chase anything tonight,” Buzzard said. “We got into a lot of hitter’s counts, and that’s when good things happen.
“This has been the best since I’ve been here. The last five, six, seven games we’ve been really, really locked in at the plate, probably as good as I’ve seen us hit as a team in a long time. It’s fun to be a part of that. The guys are swinging the bat well, and when (the pitches) are not there, they’re patient. It’s going the way it should.”
Gaston took the loss in relief, striking out two in three innings. Truscott pitched the first three innings, fanning four.
Martin, who went 2-for-4, was the only Bovard player with more than one hit, though all nine starters reached base at least once.
Jarred Pennavaria and Scott Thompson managed two hits each for the Colts, and Gaston smacked a game-tying, two-run double in the fourth.
“We had momentum at times,” Culler said. “We’d score a run here and there, and (Buzzard) was able to shut the door and get a strikeout or a groundout. That’s what happens in the playoffs when you face good pitchers.”
Should Blairsville, the regular-season champions, not turn things around soon, it could be on the verge of a quick end to an otherwise successful season.
“We (lost two in a row) twice this year, but we never lost three,” Culler said. “Hopefully that doesn’t happen here.
“The pitchers will have a shorter leash, obviously. We’ve just got to basically go wide open towards Sunday and Monday, throw everybody we have and hopefully come up with the timely hits.”