INDIANA COUNTY LEAGUE BASEBALL: Blairsville advances to championship series again
DERRY — Blairsville outhit New Derry 10-2, ended a heated series and punched its second straight ticket to the league finals with a 6-0 win in Game 4 of the best-of-five Indiana County League semifinal-round playoff series Thursday at New Derry Field.
The Colts lost the opening game of the series, 5-4, before besting third-seeded New Derry on consecutive days in Games 2, 3 and 4. Blairsville mustered just one hit in a 4-2 win in Game 3.
Second-seeded Blairsville travels to top-seeded Bovard for Game 1 of the league championship series Sunday. Three-time defending champion Bovard swept Blairsville in the best-of-seven championship series last year.
“We got some really nice hops, and those can be big when you have runners in scoring position in a close game,” said Brock Harsh, who stepped in for the suspended Joe Culler as Blairsville’s player-manager. “Those hops were a big help in getting us those runs, but I think we also did a really nice job of putting the bat on the ball. Some of the guys that weren’t hitting the ball real well throughout the series came through today with some really nice hits. When you’ve got guys one through nine who are hitting the ball, it makes it nice. There are no weak spots in the lineup.”
Culler was suspended for the final three games of the series for an unspecified reason.
Thanks in part to some fortunate hops in the infield, the Colts pulled away in a one-run game, plating five runs on five hits in the top of the sixth inning to take a 6-0 lead.
David Doak sparked the rally by leading off with a double down the right-field line. Three batters later, Nick Draghi smacked an RBI single to left field that scored Doak to make it a 2-0 game.
Then, following a Ryan Bernat base hit, Bobby Thompson ripped a two-run double to right field that scored Bobby Gaston and Bernat to make the score 5-0.
Scott Thompson capped the onslaught with an RBI single that plated Bobby Thompson and extended the Colts’ lead to 6-0.
“Every time I’m up I want to get a hit, and I love hitting with people on base,” said Bobby Thompson, who finished 3-for-4. “I just wanted to help the team out and get some insurance runs. Bobby Gaston threw a heck of a game, and we definitely wanted to get him some extra runs. … Not because he needed it, just because he deserved it.”
Harsh said that after the Tigers failed to capitalize with runners on first and second and no outs in the bottom of the fifth, he sensed their frustration boiling over and encouraged his team to shift into a higher offensive gear.
“In a one-run game you’d think they’d try to move the guy over, but then they popped the ball up and that really took the wind out of their sails,” said Harsh. “They were hanging their heads and they were all pissed off, slamming stuff in the dugout. So I brought the guys in and said, ‘Hey, right now is when you’ve got to go. You’ve got to step it up, put the ball in play and take advantage of this,’ and that’s what we did.”
Gaston escaped a bases-loaded jam in the bottom of the sixth when he baited Ty Ferlin into popping out to center field.
Bobby Thompson retired the side in the bottom of the seventh to seal the win. Thompson struck out the second batter of the inning, Tyler Pakos, and then induced a flyout from Jordan Hope on the first pitch of the next at-bat to the end the game.
Harsh drove in the game’s first run with an RBI single that plated Jarred Pennavaria in the top of the second.
Gaston fanned three, walked six and allowed two hits in six innings to earn the win.
Blairsville limited New Derry to 10 hits in the last three games of the series, including two in each of Games 3 and 4.
“It was tough,” said Scott Thompson. “We lost the first one but then we battled back and came together as a team. There’s nothing better than this group of guys being out there and playing. We’re having fun (and) that’s all you got to do. When we have fun we win.”
New-Derry player-manager Scott Dixon was upset to see the tooth-and-nail battle come to an end with three straight losses.
“I’m a little disappointed because I know we could have won that series very easily,” Dixon said. “We won the first game and we were in each of the last three games. It was just the lack of execution in the last three games that I’m disappointed about. But that being said, we have a really good core group of guys coming back and I’m excited to play with them again. Now we just need to add a couple of missing pieces.”
Seth Stinson struck out four, walked one and allowed 10 hits in a complete-game losing effort.