INDIANA COUNTY LEAGUE FINALS: Doak brothers power Colts to Game 3 win
BOVARD — It took just two forceful swings from the Doak brothers to alleviate the frustration and doubt that had crept in over the course of Blairsville’s first two games of the Indiana County League championship series against Bovard.
David Doak erupted first and put the Blairsville Colts on the board for the first time in the series by hitting a three-run homer that gave them a 3-2 lead in the top of the sixth inning. An inning later and with the Colts down to their last out of the game and trailing 4-3, Ben Doak hit a two-run shot to make it 5-4.
Reliever Scott Thompson then calmly pitched his way out of a tricky dilemma in the bottom of the seventh to preserve an unforgettable 5-4 win, cutting Bovard’s lead to 2-1 in the best-of-seven series Wednesday at Bovard Field.
Second-seeded Blairsville (18-12-1) plays host to top-seeded Bovard (26-3), which has won the last three league championships, in Game 4 this evening.
“We needed to get a win and I think everyone was pressing tonight,” Blairsville player-manager Joe Culler said. “A lot of credit goes to the Doak brothers, Dave especially. He had some tough at-bats in the series and he came through after changing a little bit in his swing. And later on his brother Ben came through and you really can’t ask for more.
“It’s kind of what we’ve been doing all year. Our hitting has been carrying our team, and it came through today.”
With the Bison clinging to a 2-0 lead, player-manager Mike Johnson pulled starting pitcher Brandon Hassinger following a walk to Brock Harsh that put runners on first and second with two outs.
The next batter, the left-handed David Doak, made Johnson pay for the move when he clobbered a fastball off reliever Jon Murphy that sailed high over the right-center field fence and gave Blairsville a 3-2 lead.
The homer snapped an offensive funk for Doak, who had mustered just two hits in the playoffs and none in the series prior to the at-bat.
It also ended the Colts’ 19-inning scoreless streak in the series. Blairsville had been shut out in the first two games of the series.
“Right before I went up to the plate Frank Harsh gave me some helpful advice,” Doak said. “He told me I was dropping my hands, so I knew I just needed to start with my hands a little lower, that way I wouldn’t drop them so much…. I just tried to use that and I got a good pitch and put it over the fence, so it was good.”
Steve Anderson responded on Bovard’s first at-bat of the next inning and clubbed a homer off starting pitcher Jared Pennavaria to tie the game, 3-3. The nimble Thompson had a chance at tracking down the homer, but didn’t scale the steep hill in front of the fence in time to get to the shot, which bounced off the top rail and hopped into the grass for a homer.
Later in the inning, and with two outs and two strikes, Joe Novak looped an RBI single off Thompson into shallow right field that plated Doug Gallick and gave the Bison a 4-3 lead.
“That’s another person (Anderson) who needed a clutch hit and he came through for us. That was big and that led to us getting the lead again,” Johnson said.
After inducing a popout from Nick Draghi, the first batter in the top of the seventh, Murphy missed low and inside on a 3-2 pitch to Ryan Bernat to issue his only walk.
Culler struck out swinging on the following at-bat, but catcher Matt Moyer dropped the third strike, which allowed Bernat to swipe second.
Then, facing a 1-2 count, Ben Doak drilled a homer that soared high over right-fielder Novak’s head and put the Colts ahead 5-4.
Prior to the homer, Doak had just one hit in the series, a single in Game 1.
“I’ve been struggling the last couple of games and I was pretty frustrated with myself so I went up there thinking I’m not going to accept another at-bat without a hit,” Doak said. “I just shortened up my approach and didn’t try to kill the ball, and a lot of times you actually hit the hardest when you don’t try to kill it. That’s how it works.”
But the Bison didn’t go quietly as the speedy Anthony Marazza legged out an infield single that smacked off Thompson’s foot to lead off the bottom of the seventh.
Marazza stole second and moved to third on a groundout to first from Zach Martin.
Anderson ripped a hard groundball to third baseman Harsh on the following at-bat that prompted Marazza to make a daring decision to take off for home.
Harsh fielded the ball cleanly and quickly fired a throw that one-hopped and pulled catcher Draghi a few feet off the plate. Draghi scooped the throw perfectly and lunged to make a textbook two-handed tag, nabbing Marazza, who slid head first into Draghi’s glove.
Thompson sealed the win when he baited Sam Mattei into popping out to right field.
“I short-armed it and luckily Draghi made a nice play on it,” Harsh said. “The kid hit it hard, I made a nice play on it, and Draghi picked me up on a bad throw. It all worked out.”
Prior to his homer, David Doak had gone a combined 0-for-5 in the series. Ben Doak had just one hit in six at-bats prior to his shot. Ben Doak admitted that he got a shot of confidence from watching his brother wallop a homer off Murphy.
“Yeah, definitely,” Doak said. “You know how it is, big brother hits a home run, so you got to try to match him. It worked out pretty well.”
The Bison swept the Colts in last year’s championship series. The loss Wednesday snapped a 12-game winning streak for Bovard in championship series games.
Bobby Thompson paced Blairsville by going 2-for-4. Pennavaria walked three and served up seven hits and three earned runs in 5 2-3 innings.
Hassinger struck out six and walked five in 5 2-3 innings.