Bovard wins Indiana County League series opener, 4-0
BOVARD — Blairsville pitcher Bobby Thompson kept the Colts in striking distance from start to finish in Game 1 of the best-of-seven Indiana County League championship series Monday against Bovard.
Sadly for Thompson, the Bison supplied longtime ace Tim Buzzard with all the run support he needed in just one inning.
Three-time defending champion Bovard capitalized on four errors, plated four runs in the bottom of the third inning and backed a gem from Buzzard to blank Blairsville, 4-0, at Bovard Field.
Top-seeded Bovard (25-2) travels to second-seeded Blairsville (17-11-1) for Game 2 this evening. The opening game of the series was slated for Sunday but was rescheduled to Monday due to inclement weather.
Despite throwing 30 pitches in the first inning, Buzzard, a staple in Bovard’s starting rotation since 2006, fired a three-hitter. He fanned 10 and walked four.
Thompson tossed a six-hitter in a losing effort. He struck out five, walked four and surrendered no earned runs.
“They both pitched great games,” Bovard player-manager Mike Johnson said.
“You’ve got to figure it’s only 7:30 (p.m.), so they both threw strikes and they both got the job done. (Buzzard) threw a great game, and their pitcher threw an outstanding game. We had a couple opportunities wasted, but there were also a couple blunders that went our way. That’s just the way this game is, and tonight things went in our favor.”
The Colts’ fielding woes started when a hard ground ball from Anthony Marazza took a strange hop and caromed off shortstop John Distefano’s midsection to put runners on first and third with no outs in the third. The next batter, Steve Anderson, cracked a sharp ground ball that Distefano seemingly reacted properly to but failed to get a glove on, allowing Zak Zimmerman to score and make it a 1-0 game. Zack Martin lifted a sacrifice fly to center field on the following at-bat to score Marazza, extending Bovard’s lead to 2-0.
Later in the inning and with two outs and runners on second and third, Matt Moyer ripped a ground ball past Thompson that ricocheted off the bag at second and trickled into the outfield. Anderson and Steve Zerbini scored to stretch Bovard’s lead to 4-0.
“Johnny (Distefano) played well in the semifinal series. He just had a couple bad hops here,” Blairsville player-manager Joe Culler said. “I’ve played here and the same thing’s happened to me and Scott Harsh and all of our guys, so I can’t really take anything from John on that.”
Buzzard retired the side in the fourth and fifth innings, fanning three batters in the process.
The hard-throwing right-hander then encountered his last issue after walking David Doak to load the bases in the sixth with one out. Buzzard didn’t waiver, though, and struck out the next two batters, Scott Thompson and Distefano, to coolly escape the jam.
Buzzard induced groundouts on consecutive at-bats in the seventh to retire the side and end the game.
“I threw two terrible pitches in the sixth inning,” Buzzard said. “One was a fastball, pretty much right down the middle, and the second was a slider-curveball right at the belt, and they hit the ball both times like I expected they would. I made two terrible mistakes and kind of put myself in a hole and made it a lot harder than it had to be, but we were lucky enough to make some plays and get out of there.”
After walking two of the game’s first three batters, Buzzard gave up a base hit to Bobby Thompson to load the bases with one out in the first. Buzzard baited Doak into popping out before striking out Scott Thompson with a high fastball to emerge from the bind unscathed.
“He’s a veteran,” Johnson said of Buzzard. “He’s been doing it for a long time, and he’s been playing with me for a long time, and I knew when he gets in those situations, he bears down, gets the job done and throws strikes.”
Bovard left 10 runners on base, and Blairsville stranded seven. Zerbini went 2-for-3 to pace the Bison.
Bobby Thompson stroked two of Blairsville’s three hits.